When my daughter was in first grade she participated in an after school soccer program. It was a free program held weekly for twelve weeks. Her coach was a volunteer mom who worked full time in Philadelphia, 45 minutes from the elementary school. Practice began at 6:00 PM which gave us time to have dinner and meet back on the soccer field.
Soccer practice went well for the first five weeks. On the sixth week, the volunteer coach was ten minutes late. I noticed that some of the moms were impatient. The following week, she was almost half an hour late. The kids didn’t notice because they were having fun kicking the soccer balls, but the moms sure did.
Ginny and I were standing at the edge of the soccer field watching our children play. A few feet from me I noticed one woman was particularly agitated. As every minute passed she got more and more impatient. She barely let her friend get a word in edgewise while she kept up a running barrage of complaints about how annoyed she was with her child’s soccer practice. In a loud voice she said “and the coach doesn’t even bother to respect our time and get here when she’s supposed to.”
Her rude comment bugged me but I kept my mouth shut. I felt uncomfortable listening to her rant and began to move away as Ginny leaned toward the irritated woman. “You know, it’s possible that the trains are running late, or an emergency happened at work. Really, it’s impolite to complain about someone who is willing to volunteer unless you are willing to volunteer yourself.”
The woman’s face hardened as she realized that someone had just called her out on her bad manners. She raised her chin, said “Hmmph” and walked briskly toward the parking lot.
Ginny’s comment reminded me of the times I had been judgmental and I felt embarrassed too. Her comment helped me take a greater step towards patience and understanding of other’s situations.
It was a wake up call to remind me that most people try to do their best and complaining is counter productive.
I am a much kinder person now because my first thought is to wonder what might be going on in someone’s life.
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What is your first thought when someone doesn’t seem to be doing what you feel they should?
Were there times in your life when you complained about someone’s actions, only to learn that they were dealing with difficult situations in their personal life?