“I saw what happened to you the other day.” A professor I knew was saying to me as we stood partaking of the sumptuous meal in a function we were attending.
“Aaaah…what happened to me?” My mind was racing trying to pinpoint what he was referring to.
With professorial calmness he continued, “At the parking lot the other day.”
I froze. Mmmm!
“I saw all the thinking that went into your actions that day and I want you to know I felt bad for you.” I couldn’t read his expression. He was focusing intently on his food.
I resisted the urge to stumble out an explanation. I also didn’t want to make the wrong impression. I decided to give him the real version of me. The one he probably wasn’t expecting. I probably should tell you the story leading up this conversation.
I am currently attending graduate school in the evening hours. The process of transition between getting my 7-year-old to do his homework, my husband getting home and trying to disengage from endless questions specifically tailored to hold me hostage; all leave me breathless to say the least. I often find myself often driving to school in a most ruffled state.
On one of those evenings, I found myself forcibly yanked out of my reverie when the dull sound of my car grazing another car in the student parking lot thrust me into the present. I was stunned. I had NEVER scratched up anyone’s car. I had NEVER been in an accident. In disbelief I sat for a moment contemplating the implications of the accident on my insurance.
I also looked around-yes I did- to see who had seen me scratch up the car. Then I got out my car and inspected the other car. There were no visible scratches. It was then I made my decision.
Contemplating what to say to the professor, I decided to go for it.
“It wasn’t a moral choice to leave the note.” Oh heck!Might as well. “I left the note on the other car because I figured someone would have been watching.” I almost laughed imagining he probably never expected this kind of answer. Then I got to the real motive behind my actions.
“Back when I first started college, some friends and I saw someone scratch up someone’s car. The guy got out of his car just like I did, looked around, took some time to think and wrote up a note. We thought he was cute, so we went to look at the note in the hopes that he had left his number there.” In my defense this was more than a decade ago. “Anyway, the note said something like this…. ‘I am sorry I banged up your car. I don’t have insurance so I can’t leave you my number. I am only leaving this note because some cute (I prefer to think he thought we were cute) girls are watching me’…we never saw the guy again but the memory of that story suddenly came back to me the other day when I grazed that car.”
The professor looked up at me, “Well, my respect for you has gone up a notch. Someone banged up my car one time and never bothered to leave a note. I wish they had, even if it was for all the wrong reasons.”
Now imagine that! I had come full circle. I had been found myself entangled in the process of judging the thinking behind my actions that day that I didn’t want to give myself credit for how I had acted in the end. I had decided that since I had not acted in the purest of intentions (considering the statistical likelihood there were witnesses) then the action didn’t warrant praise. I never did hear back from the person after I left the note. Maybe they didn’t find a scratch. Maybe they didn’t think it was worth calling me for. The proof, as they say, was in the pudding.
To appreciate a situation fully for what it is, it is worth it to look at it as it is, rather than as it should be.