I believe that everyday you have the opportunity to connect with others, and that connection can change their connection with everybody else. If you are unpleasant to someone they will be probably also be unpleasant to someone, who will be unpleasant to someone else, who will be unpleasant to another person who will continue the pattern until there is an enormous epidemic of unpleasantness.
The other morning I was waiting at a stop sign. Apparently I had waited too long, because the SUV behind me honked, and not a friendly “Hey look, you can go now” honk, but an aggressive “MOVE NOW, YOU @$!&*%” honk. This made me quite unhappy. So a few blocks later when this guy in a Subaru cut me off, I honked at him. And I’m guessing that made him unhappy, so he most likely took it out on some other driver, who then snapped at a friend, who didn’t tip the waitress, who was rude to her next customer, who probably the one who was rude to the person in the SUV in the first place causing them to rude to me.
After the Subaru had driven away I started to think. I thought about how I had contributed to this guy’s morning, and I wished I had made a positive contribution rather than a negative one. I wished I had smiled at him or waved, which may have made him smile at somebody else who then, of course, smiled at the next person they saw. But I had not done that. I had honked unnecessarily. I had been the unpleasant one, the jerk he would complain to his friends about. I had one chance to do something nice for this man, to make a positive connection. And I hadn’t. I felt terrible. I had contributed to the epidemic.
The next time someone honks at me I plan to let it go. I plan to feel sorry that they have had a bad day, and to hope thatt it gets better. In the mean time I hope that I can start a new epidemic. One where people hold the door open others, smile at strangers, over tip the barista, and stop being so all around unpleasant. I know that every time I interact with someone I make a connection. And I try to make it a good one.