Monday, June 22, 2009

Cranky grandmother stands for peace

Where will this end up?Image by tomeppy via Flickr

The first couple of weeks I stood for peace, I noticed that I seemed to be, well, rather cranky. I found myself showing irritation to people on the bus and sidewalk to whom I would ordinarily give way. In fact, I cursed out loud the automatic checkout machine at a supermarket I patronize infrequently.

Its disembodied voice insisted I had more items in the checkout bay and wouldn't let me pay. Worse, once it took my money, it immediately chided me to pick up my packages and exit while I waited for my change and receipt. I fumed in, ahem, colorful language. When the attendant standing nearby laughed, instead of chuckling with her at my frustration and inanity, I frowned and told her how much I dislike shopping in her store, perhaps a little more loudly than I wish to recall. The poor woman! It's not her fault her company chooses to remove the small bit of human exchange we enjoy while shopping.

As a young woman, I dreaded my weekly grocery shopping trips, trying to fit our growing family's needs into a budget that was not growing with us, but the friendly banter with the checkout clerks at the supermarket, meat, milk and health food stores (yes, shopping was an all-day chore) made up for the stress and sometimes mitigated the headache I almost always developed by the end of the day, when I knew I would be faced with my husband's scowls and complaints over the money I had spent. (Did I buy the ice cream, candy and cookies he bought when he shopped? No! Frugal housewife that I was, I avoided all empty-calorie foods.) Eventually, I wised up and delegated the shopping to him. No more shoehorning the budget. No more headaches. No more grumpy husband. Lots of sweets and salty foods in the house. Now that's one way to make peace at home, folks, though it wreaks havoc on the diet.

So when I found myself behaving increasingly surly those first few weeks, I was puzzled. Here I was, enjoying this delightful interlude of quiet, humbling peace each evening, yet uttering mild profanities under my breath when unconscious or just plain rude urbanites bumped into me on the street or spit in my face while coughing on the bus.

Now I ask you, how was I making peace?

One sunny morning, my sweetie and I ambled down the street with our granddaughter in the stroller. Repeatedly, groups of individuals approached from the opposite direction, spaced four abreast across the entire width of the sidewalk with no sign of shifting to make room for oncoming traffic (us). Customarily, we moved as close to the right as we could, but inevitably, the nearest oncomers bumped or brushed us as they passed, apparently oblivious to our presence. This time, instead of pulling behind my partner and the stroller, obstinately, I held my ground. The young man immediately in my path ran smack dab into me, full on, as though I were invisible. (Believe me, it took effort not to dodge at the last second.) To his credit, while his friends snickered and chortled, he turned back after our collision with the briefest "Sorry!" I, on the other hand, scowled in return. Now I ask you, how was I making peace?

I belie my intent to make peace when I behave with intolerance or worse, without compassion.

My face and my name are on public web pages for the world to see. When I'm out and about, since my readership is quite small, it's unlikely someone will recognize the crabby old woman muttering under her breath about rude bus drivers or flashing a "What's with you?" hand and stare at the impatient driver honking while she hobbles across the street. Still, making my stand for peace public also makes me responsible, not just for being the peace I want to see in the world, but for exemplifying peaceful responses to annoying situations. I belie my intent to make peace when I behave with intolerance or worse, without compassion.

The good news is, standing for peace every day raises my awareness to the minute and varied ways I can bring more peace to my life, and that brings me a little closer to the vision of The Village of Ordinary and the respect the villagers show for one another and for peoples far beyond their village. That's a good thing.

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If you feel inspired to stand for peace a few minutes a day, I encourage you to Tweet about it and use the hashtag #5minutes. By Mother's Day next year, perhaps there will be millions of us standing for peace in our homes and gardens, churches and parks, and on the steps of City Hall.

My gratitude to Flickr member tomeppy for making the image above available under Creative Commons 2.0 Generic license.

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  1. This strikes such a chord for me. My major pet peeve is obliviousness. And--your point about "waging peace" is well taken. If I were being graded on this exercise, I am afraid I would score in the "failing" range, since my tolerance level is so low.

    I'll have to let this gel. Thanks for bringing attitude into the equation...I think. :)

  2. Wanda, obliviousness is a good word for what I feel so often. At the very least, I expect grownups to have good manners. Boy, was I raised in the Fifties or what?


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