I thought I’d get a jump in my New Year’s resolution to get into better shape, so I started an aqua size class just before the new year. After class while in the change room I noticed a woman getting dressed next to me who seemed rather dour. As I was getting ready to leave I wished her a Happy New Year and she snarled at me and said “New Year means nothing to me”. I could have been offended and have left it at that. Instead, I asked her why she felt that way.
Her husband had recently passed away and she was all alone. On top of that, her elderly mother living in Europe had suffered a stroke and had no one to take care of her. She was planning a trip back home however, the flights over the holidays were exorbitant and she was forced to wait until after the new year before purchasing the tickets. I listening with empathy and commiserated with her. I told her I hoped things would improve for her and her mother. As we were walking out the door, she wished me a Happy New Year.
Often we see people who react negatively to occasions when we make a pleasant comment. We take it personally and wonder, “What’s up with them?” It’s often a reflex on their part and may be a cry for help or a wish to unburden themselves. We have no idea what’s going on in their world.
I typically don’t make New Year’s resolutions because they don’t tend to last (especially my ‘get into better shape’ one). This year though, I’m resolving not to jump to conclusions when someone’s approach is negative, but instead give them the benefit of the doubt. We just don’t know what burden they may be carrying. I hope you’ll consider doing the same. There, but for the grace of god or fortune, go you or I.