Two weeks ago I was in Boston and went to the Red Sox victory parade with my parents. My father is lifelong Red Sox fan, and the last time he went to the celebration was in 1967, so you can imagine how excited he was. I was excited for him. That said, I was NOT excited about traveling to the parade, being in a crowd of a bazillion Bostonians (no offense to the lovely people of Boston), and having to fight my way through the hordes to get a glimpse of the famous Duck Boats carrying the World Series winning players.
When we got to the T station I was relieved to see that there weren’t a ton of people waiting for the train. My relief was immediately replaced by dread as the train pulled in to the station and it was literally packed wall to wall with people. We walked to a couple of the open doors, but there wasn’t an inch to spare. I was already picturing the next five trains looking exactly the same. My mother, being who she is (a bit pushy), made eye contact with a young man on the train and he immediately said, “Come on, we can fit you in. The more the merrier.” As my mom was physically being pulled into the throngs of people, my dad and I had to follow her, for fear that she would be swallowed by the T never to be heard from again. You can imagine how incredibly annoyed every person in that train car was with us. I would have been equally agitated if I were them. I mean, I was annoyed that I had to squeeze myself into such a tiny space. My dad had to stand on the bottom step with his back smashed against the doors. I held on to him for dear life.
Before I had “I’m kinder than that” on a constant loop in my head, I would NOT have been very nice to the people around me. And don’t get me wrong, my first instinct was to keep my head down and not engage. Mikey and Kevin, the two young men who pulled my mom into the car were in their 20’s, they were hard core Red Sox fans who were drinking beer at 10 am and they were boisterous with thick Boston accents (think Good Will Hunting). In the past, I would’ve rolled my eyes (to myself of course) and tried to ignore them. BUT, the kinder version of me, decided that I shouldn’t be so judgmental. So, I engaged. Well, my mom started chatting with them…and I followed her lead.
Before these guys had even opened their mouths, I had already constructed an image of who they were. This what we humans do. Judge first and then find out who a person really is. This makes it difficult to walk back these judgements when they are proven wrong. I have been working really hard over the past year to catch myself BEFORE I make these judgements, think “I’m kinder than that” and then allow the person to show me who they are without some preconceived notion in my head.
Yes, Mikey and Kevin were loud. Yes, they were drinking beer at 10 am. Yes, they were huge Red Sox fans overzealously celebrating the team’s World Series win. BUT, they were also two incredibly kind young men. When the train would lurch and my mother would lose her balance they would hold on to her. They offered my dad a beer, although 10 am is now a bit early for him these days. They kept asking if we were doing alright and if they could help us in any way.
When my mother told them that her name was Karen Sullivan, they said that their pre-school teacher’s name was Mrs. Sullivan as well, and that she had taught them the importance of always being a gentleman. Mikey explained that when they were in pre-school and they would go on their “nature walks” with their class, Mrs. Sullivan would have the boys cross any water (puddles, streams, etc.) first and then offer the girls in the class their hand to help them over. He said that she made sure that they understood that being respectful and kind to others was always the right choice. We told them how awesome Mrs. Sullivan was, and that it had obviously worked because they were definitely gentlemen. When we were getting off of the train, we told them how lovely it was talking with them and how much we appreciated their kindness on the train. We said our goodbyes like we were old friends and headed off to join the festivities at Fenway.
If I hadn’t thrown my judgmental self out and allowed the kinder me to engage with Mikey and Kevin, I would have never had the pleasure of meeting them. This experience was just another example of how kindness, not judgment, should be our default. Judgments are the walls that keep us from discovering who a person truly is. Being “kinder than that” is the key to breaking down those walls.