It’s been roughly 3 weeks of thinking of being grateful, doing nice things, appreciating people, saying thank you – whew is that tiring… J/K!
As I said in an earlier post, as more and more blessed my life became over the years, I learned to be really tuned into being thankful – but the Challenge made me hyper-aware, and I have to say, I found myself in a different state over the course of the 3 weeks.
At times, I felt as if there was unfinished business if I didn’t express my gratitude so explicitly. I make it a habit to send a personal thank you card after a business meeting – but these past 3 weeks, I found myself weighed down more heavily if I was a day late in sending them out.
At the same time, I also found myself much less tolerant of ungrateful behavior. Why couldn’t everyone be so tuned into their blessings and making others feel appreciated? Paradoxically, while in a heightened sense of gratitude, I found myself equally in tune with how harsh the world really is and the superficial nature of so many every actions that are counter to being grateful. So many blessings in life go unnoticed because we take them for granted over time – it’s human nature I guess to focus on the everyday matters that in the end are so trivial.
Two stories as parting thoughts. Before the Challenge, I was driving home one day and must have accidentally cut someone off switching lanes. The couple behind me were livid, coming up next to me at the next light and gesturing obsenities. In the heat of the moment and knowing whatever I did was completely unintentional, I rolled down my window and gave them a piece of MY mind. The rest of the drive home, I felt totally embarrassed – for both parties. If my kids had seen that kind of behavior – yikes. Why couldn’t I have given a simple wave once I realized what I had done, perhaps that would have prevented such fury from the other car. Even if it hadn’t, why couldn’t I have been the bigger person, rolled down my window and instead of shouting what a jerk the other party was, simply say that I was sorry – how foolish would they have felt then? Why couldn’t we both simply be grateful that as unfortunate as being cut off is, no accident occurred with much more serious consequences…
So this past Wednesday, just a few days before the final curtain on the Challenge was coming down, I was once again driving home from work. The same street I’ve driven for years at this point. I get to a major intersection and turn into the right hand turn-out lane. First car to get to the light, I stop since my light still was red. All of a sudden, WHAM – I was rear-ended back in high school but the same state of disbelief/shock came back suddenly. The next 2-3 seconds are blank, they were never there I don’t think.
But immediately after those couple of seconds, I look up into my rear view mirror and see the same car still coming into my car, pushing as hard as it could to send me further into oncoming traffic. Luckily, the 1990 Corolla was no match for my 03 Accord, and we both came to a stop as our engines died. I collected my thoughts for another few brief seconds and then turned into a gas station with the rear-ender right behind.
Back in high school, I came out of my car like a charging bull and gave the elderly lady an earful (again, how embarrassing on many fronts). This time around, I got out of the car and in an almost deja vu moment, I find myself watching another elderly woman climb out of her car. She clearly is in a state of shock/distress – saying she couldn’t believe what she did, mumbling that maybe the sun go into her eyes, hoping dearly she wouldn’t have to get a new car. My first words out of my mouth this time? “Are you okay, do you need help?” She then collects herself a bit and tells me yes, she is shaken but doesn’t seem to be hurt.
She looks at the back of my car for the first time and sees the baby on board sign. We both look at each other and I think we connected – how much worse could this have been, how lucky was this accident, thoughts you normally wouldn’t associate with first emotions after a car wreck. We proceeded to trade information, and not more than 5 minutes after we pulled over, I was headed home.
As soon as I got home, I felt a wave of emotions – semi-life flashing before your eyes type of moment. The thing I took for granted every single day for years – a safe journey to and fro work – it took a rear-ending to remind me that life is precious, it can be taken away in a fleeting moment. Overly dramatic for what my accident turned out to be, but as I looked at my family at the dinner table, I couldn’t help such thoughts. Then I started to feel guilty – in my somewhat distressed state and desire to get home, I drove off without seeing Elaine drive off. I remembered the sense of familiarity I felt as I was copying down her driver’s license information – born in 1934, same year as my Dad. She could have been my Dad, would I have wanted some younger driver to drive off after the accident if it had been my Dad who hit him?
That evening, I wrote 2 emails, an email to Elaine – are you okay, you appeared visibly shaken, I only want to make sure you got home safely. Second email was to my insurance agent telling her what happened and in the end, essentially pressing charges on Elaine to get my car fixed.
Elaine wrote back immediately the very next day, again saying that she couldn’t believe what she did and thanking me for checking on her, and yes, she did get home fine.
Another day passes, something doesn’t feel right. I talk to my wife about it late that night. I write another email to Elaine the next day – are you planning to fix anything on your car through your insurance policy? She writes back another nice note saying that she doesn’t plan to but will cooperate with my adjuster who left her a voicemail. I struggle again that night – another conversation with Polly. I don’t know anything about this woman, she could be someone who chases little kids off her lawn and yells at the newspaper boy.
But by the weekend, my mind is made up. I write one final email to Elaine – “We’ve both been through enough on this ordeal, we both should be glad no one was hurt. And given there was no major damage, I’m happy to cover my own repairs – I’ll be dropping my claim against your insurance policy, have a wonderful weekend.”
Reply a couple of hours later with a heartfelt, somewhat religious message of gratitude. My worry this entire time – that I was being a sucker. In the end, perhaps I was but it doesn’t matter. I’ll be out some $’s and the inconvenience of repairing a car, but the Challenge had come full circle for me and I felt great about the decision.