There was a post floating around Facebook a few months ago, about a person who had passed by a vehicle with a “Sorry, New Driver” sign posted in the car’s rear window. (If you can find the original, please tag me so I can share the original author!)
The person writing the post had reflected on the situation and shared that just knowing that this person needed a little break (or brake), they were able to be more compassionate and understanding toward them.
If only we could afford that patience to everyone in the world … as we never know what people are going through.
A similar situation happened to me, today. I was visiting students at a busy hospital site. The parking garage was FULL and I had luckily nabbed a spot on the roof. As I was leaving, I started to drive out of the spot I had backed myself into, earlier. Another car in front of me started backing out at the same time. She clearly did NOT see me, to the point that I had reverse my vehicle back into the original parking spot to avoid getting hit.
Another couple was walking to their car at the same time, and the women walking to her vehicle shrugged at me and gave me the “oops, some people” look. I waited for a few minutes and another car came around to drive out.
I sat and took a deep breath.
I looked over to my left and realized that someone had made up their own spot, which mean it was ONE way traffic to get in and out of our area of the parking lot. I waited, and waved another person by once the route was cleared.
In that moment, I thought about where I was. Literally, where was I parked?
A world renowned hospital parking lot. A multi-service facility that provided care to people needing cardiac surgery, rehabilitation and more. A state-of-the-art hospital especially for children. An emergency department, ICUs, and more.
I thought about the people that were coming in and out of that parking lot and what news they’d been given that day. I thought about children with a new diagnosis of cancer, I thought about the guy in his 40s who needed major cardiac surgery, I thought about those who had received shocking news about a family member, or unfortunate updates about their own treatment plan. I thought about people who had to say goodbye to their loved one, that day.
I also thought back to the New Driver sign. What signs were these people wearing, that I could not see?
In the moment, I took a breath – smiled and shrugged my shoulders as the cars passed in front of me, leaving the rooftop parking area. I COULD have been tempted to wonder why that person chose to block off a section of the parking lot for the hundreds of other cars looking for spots.
But, I didn’t.
Instead my first thought was, the person driving that car must have been desperate to get into their appointment, or in to see their loved one, or to meet with the healthcare team to find out what was going to happen next for their family member’s (or their own) care plan.
Today, I imagined what their sign would have said, if I had a chance to speak with them.
A few weeks ago, I was picking up a friend from a surgery. I was in line at the grocery store and only had a few items, but it was packed. A kind woman in front of me said, hey – you just have a few things – why don’t you go ahead. “Thank-you”, I said. “I have a dear friend I’m picking up from the hospital and I don’t know what time she’s done, and I want to be there…this is really kind of you…”
Did she see my invisible sign that day?
Maybe not, but she sure was aware of the situation, aware of her surroundings AND empathetic towards me.
I was grateful. As I drove my friend home after her surgery, I drove like a 90 year old person with poor vision. I was so worried about every bump I went over, and was worried about getting into an accident with my post-operative friend. I drove slowly and I just thought, I wish I could tell those cars around me that we are just trying to get home safely, and avoid any bumps along the way. I’m sorry, I thought, but I can’t risk speeding at this moment.
I challenge you to really consider what signs would people wear, if they could tell you how they really felt, what they were really going through. Think about how a little bit of compassion and caring could make or break their
I challenge you to think about invisible signs.
Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes is the best way to be empathetic, relational and compassionate.
Strive to be WITH them, and consider what kind of day THEY might be having.
I KNOW the world would be a better place, if we could do this and do it consistently.