He flipped me the bird.
I was sitting in my car at a red light and saw a guy holding a sign. I realized he was possibly homeless and asking for money, so I tried to find the appropriate facial expression that was a balance between acknowledging his plight and apologizing for not being able to contribute.
His sign read, “Bad Accident.” Of course, I was wondering what happened. I could only see the top half of his body as he wove through traffic, limping. Then, as he walked out of the street back onto the curb, I could see his leg. His calf was blistered and swollen, almost like it was ready to explode.
As my gaze lifted from his calf to make contact with his eyes, he gestured a quick motion. He flipped me the bird. I felt an immediate shock as I continued staring into his eyes. And I sat staring at him until the light turned green, feeling the pain, frustration, and anger that he radiated. That he tried to transfer onto me.
I drove home still thinking about him. I wondered if he had flipped anybody else off. What was it that made him feel comfortable displacing his emotions onto me? Was I the final straw in his disappointment of human kindness? Did he live in a state of perpetual hopelessness? Was he even apologetic about his brief moment of rage?
Sometimes, we don’t get the full story. We typically only experience brief interactions with the people we encounter. Even in those brief interactions, energy is exchanged. As the saying goes, energy is neither created nor destroyed, but transferred. What type of energy are you emitting? Do you allow someone else’s energy to affect your mood or your day?
When I saw the man on the corner, I genuinely wanted to help him, but couldn’t. What if I had just offered him a smile of hopefulness? What if I had offered a word of encouragement? What if I had been a slight ray of sunshine during this storm in his life?
This week, we will encounter many people whose pain isn’t as obvious as a man standing on the corner with a sign. Their struggles are internal and may spill out by way of attitudes, aggressions, and anger. You may be the recipient of unexpected gestures of pain and frustration. But don’t let it affect you. Just as anger can be contagious, so can happiness. So can optimism. So can the faith of expecting brighter days ahead and tackling dreams and goals.
As you move through the coming days, be a ray of sunshine for others. Offer a warm, genuine smile. Emit positive energy and transfer your light onto others. And keep shining… somebody needs it.