I believe in tolerance. Well duh, you say, I bet you also believe in trying hard and being kind. Okay, go ahead and laugh. But it just so happens that for me to voice a belief in tolerance is not easy because I am an intolerant person by nature. However, I know that while I can’t do anything about how I feel, I can definitely prevent myself from acting on my intolerance. It just takes work.
I am someone who sets high standards for myself, but unfortunately I set the same standards for others. When a loud cell phone sets my teeth on edge, I have to curb my urge to snap, “Hey, don’t you know that phone has a quiet setting?” When the only way to sort out my checking account snafu is by speaking to a woman in New Delhi whom I can barely understand, I succumb to a similar irritation. And when I find myself waiting in the hospital emergency room with my very feverish daughter on New Year’s Eve – pediatrician unavailable – behind people who are longwindedly explaining their lack of insurance, I want to scream.
The list could go on I’m ashamed to say. But when these intolerant thoughts bubble up, I call on my better angel who reminds me to lay off. I pay attention to this voice because I know that if I don’t, I will be contributing to a “my way or the highway” mentality that seems to be gripping the planet.
I can’t change my intolerant nature with a snap of my fingers, but I can be aware of it so that when for the tenth time, my husband forgets to put his Blackberry on vibrate, I will remind myself how hard he works and that like it or not, that cell phone is an important part of his work. And when I struggle to understand the lady in New Delhi, I can ask her a bit about herself and discover that she is the mother of two small children and hear how much this job means to her family’s wellbeing.
As for that emergency room scenario, I cut myself some slack because I know that if I hadn’t been so frantic about my daughter, I would not have been so uncharitable. I would have understood immediately that not everyone has the blessings I do and been grateful I live in a country that, even though it sometimes falls down on the job of being tolerant, still tries to get it right most of the time. Just as I do.
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