“Judgments prevent us from seeing the good that lies beyond appearances.” –Dr. Wayne Dyer
The fall season has arrived and in our house that means football and wrestling. Over the years, countless evenings have been spent watching our sons practice in their individual sport then cheering them on when it’s time to take the field or hit the mat. Our support for them continues despite the fact that one coaches a high school team that’s a 5-hour drive east from here and the other wrestles at a college that’s a 6-hour drive north. For some it may seem excessive but I humbly learned that everything happens for a reason.
Since September, every weekend has included a road trip which usually leaves me tired on Mondays. And the standard Monday morning question, “How was your weekend?” leads me to explain my long drives on the freeway in order to show support and encouragement for my sons. It’s just simply become a family norm that mom and dad will be there for them no matter what. “Besides,” I would add, “I can so therefore I must.” The way I see it, I am able-bodied and have the resources to enjoy watching my sons pursue their passions.
On one of these road trips, our car was sideswiped by another driver who sped past on the dirt shoulder of the freeway. Thank goodness no one was injured. Though the driver pulled over, his reactions were aggressive and accusatory in the face of clearly making a poor choice. In truth, I was upset and in disbelief that he had the nerve to blame me for his misjudgment. It took a couple days for me to reach a level of compassion that I know to be the benevolent way to respond. I concluded that he must be carrying some deep seeded traumas that would allow him to react so combatively.
I believe that our negative words and behaviors reflect unresolved traumas within ourselves and rarely have anything to do with the person on the receiving end of the negativity. With this understanding, it felt wrong to continue being upset or even bothered by the other driver’s behavior. I felt grateful that my level of awareness helps me to grow and broaden my perspective. With this awareness, it just doesn’t make sense to be unkind to others. How can you possibly be mean to others knowing that they may be carrying trauma?
If you’ve ever been in an accident, you can’t help but to be even more attentive to other drivers and extra careful with your own driving. So in the following week, I was thankful to have arrived safely at my son’s football game to support his players on Senior Night. Upon entering the stadium, a memorial plaque provided yet another reminder of the dangers of the road. It memorialized a former student and football player at the high school who lost his life in a tragic car accident. He was only 18 years old.
Making our way through the youthful, enthusiastic crowd of students and the proud, watchful parents sporting team colors, my husband and I found our seats at the 50 yard line. As I settled in for kick-off, I caught a glimpse of a player’s mom whom I see at each game that I’ve attended. I notice her because of her many tattoos, striking hairstyle, and attire that seems inappropriate for a high school football game. On this night, I decided not to comment about her to my husband as I had every other time I had seen her. However, I’m pretty sure I rolled my eyes.
With the band playing, the game moved along and it was nearly half-time. I really wanted to visit the concession stand and take a restroom break but decided to wait for the half-time festivities. We watched as seniors from the football team, band, and cheer squad were recognized for the achievements. Walking alongside their parents and siblings, each one represented a promise of a bright future. Then the announcer called our attention to a special presentation at centerfield. He introduced the parents of the young student memorialized on the plaque I had seen earlier. My eyes looked to centerfield to see a mom with many tattoos, a striking hairstyle, and attire that seemed inappropriate for a high school football game.
The same eyes that I had rolled at the sight of this mom just moments before were now flowing tears of compassion. The universe was revealing my shortcomings in a deeply profound way. As she expressed gratitude for the love and support extended to her and her family, I was thinking of how my own words had been preparing me for this moment. She was teaching me that I can so therefore I must. My tears continued to flow as I fully understood that she can no longer use her able-body and resources to watch her son play football and pursue his passion. She was calling me out on my negative judgments of her and my ill-natured perspective of her choices. How could I have been so mean knowing that others may be carrying trauma?
As if this wasn’t enough, the universe was not done with me. I finally began heading to the restroom to now clean my face and get myself together. Just as I got around to the end of the football field, this mom and her husband were exiting the football field right in front of me. It was as if they were lifted and placed directly in my path. Everything happens for a reason. We stood there face to face not two feet apart. I knew that I was in fact being given the opportunity to face my own deficiencies. The silence waited for me to break it. “I was deeply moved by your courageousness and grace.” They both embrace me. He said, “Thank you so much.” She said, “Your words mean more to me than you know.”
Actually, it is she who has absolutely no idea what her words mean to me.