It's Not About You

I saw this woman everyday; we worked together and sometimes ran into each other in the hallway.  Even if it was just on an informal level, we knew each other.  We exchanged pleasantries whenever we passed each other "Good Morning", "Hello, how are you?", as most co-workers tend to do in an office setting.  Up until the last few weeks, I would see this same woman, and without so much as even blinking an eye or looking in my direction, she would walk past me and not say a word.  Even when our contact was unavoidable, I made sure I spoke to her and always said hello. Yet, she would respond to me with forced one word answers and blank looks. I took it personally.  How could someone that I see almost every day be so rude?  Did she no longer like me?  Did I do or say something that was off-putting?  It bothered me.

Then one day, there was an announcement that this woman's father had past away and it was not unexpected.  And just like that, I had not seen her for the next few days because she had left to be with her family and to bury her father.  Deep down I felt bad, not only because this woman experienced a death in her family, but because I had the audacity to think that her attitude and behavior was about her disliking me.  Not because of the reality of the situation that she was dealing with an ill family member and probably couldn't focus on anything else but that.

Then one day the woman and I ran into each other in the elevator.  There was an awkward silence for a moment as I thought to myself whether I should say anything to her.  What could I say?  Finally, I faced her and said "I'm sorry about your loss; my condolences".  She turned towards me with a smile and looked straight into my eyes and said a gentle, "Thank you".  She went on to tell me how strong her father was in his life and during his final moments.  Our interaction was brief but engaging.  We spoke to each other on a humane level.

This experience humbled me.  It showed me that you never know why people do the things they do or what they have going on in their lives.  Sometimes we lash out or take an individuals actions personally, when in reality it has nothing to do with us whatsoever.  Individual circumstances can cause us to react in a variety of ways; but in the end we're all just people who go through life and do the best we can.