It finally snowed here. It came out of nowhere and caught the whole region by surprise. January was unseasonably and unbelievably warm – often hitting the 50’s or 60’s during the day. This was stunning because it snowed gobs in November and December and because my first January in Oregon snowed every single day. It is so nice to have it back. I know plenty of people back east hated it, and I am happy to take it off their hands.
I have two jobs – I work one of them overnight. I only work a mile from home, so I try to bike whenever possible. Monday night’s choice to ride was a fateful one as the ride home in the morning was in 9 inches of snow.
I was downtown pushing through the slush when a woman rolled down her window, stuck her head out and yelled “You’re an idiot!” I was stunned! Partially because I didn’t come up with it fast enough and partially because I try to hold my tongue I didn’t deliver what I wanted to in return: “Oh yeah, well, you’re a jerk!”
That encounter stuck with me. I couldn’t get it out of my head. I was angry she was judging me without even knowing the context, I was angry she would judge me period for riding a bike (we live in a huge biking community). I was angry she was just so mean about it. I had a chip on my shoulder for half the day after that, I felt on edge.
My wife and I had a similar experience in Italy when we accidentally purchased incomplete train tickets. We thought we qualified for a discount when we didn’t. When it came time to check the passengers the conductor was flabbergasted we made this error. He was rude and loud and boisterous when he discovered our error – he refused to understand how we made the error and wouldn’t believe it was an honest mistake. He subsequently gave us a large fine and left the cabin with my wife (six months pregnant at the time) in tears.
Negativity is a powerful thing. It seeps into you, it takes up residency and is quite reckless on it’s journey right to your heart.
The four Italian strangers with whom we were sharing a cabin graciously banded together and gave us the full amount of the fine (over $100 US) out of their own pockets. And in spite of this overwhelming gift of love and compassion my wife and I were still overcome with the aftershock of the mean conductor. It consumed us emotionally the rest of the day.
In the counseling world they say for every negative consequence you give at minimum you should also give 4 positive reinforcers. And I believe it. Because negativity stings – it messes with your head, and it punches with the force of a heavyweight champion. It takes a lot more than compliment on nice hair to topple that.
I don’t offer many teaching posts or lessons on things we should do – but I want to encourage my fellow brothers and sisters to be people of light and love. And I want them to know that we have to work hard to break through all the negativity looming over our world. It is thick in the air and it chokes when breathed in, and has a tight grip around hearts. Our love has to more than match it, it has to overcome it. Which is to say, we’ve got our work cut out for us.