Last Saturday I was doing yard work, and watched my next door neighbor interact with his family. He was washing his car and his 6-year-old son was riding on a little push car, up and down the driveway. Occasionally the boy would get too close to the car, or stop on the hose, or bump into his dad’s legs. Each time this happened, the father would express impatience and irritation, until finally he yelled for his wife to come and get him. As his wife came outside, he asked her when breakfast would be ready, and reminded her that he couldn’t be late – again showing irritation and impatience. As he finished washing the car, a neighbor came by walking his dog. As he stopped to chat, the dog was doing its share of misbehaving, tangling my neighbor in the leash and then using the lawn to “do his business”. Amazingly enough, he never complained, smiled the whole time, and accepted the neighbor’s apologies in a very gracious manner.
After watching these interchanges, I spent the week being more observant of how people treat total strangers or acquaintances, as opposed to how they treat the ones they love. Why is it that most of us are kinder and more polite to everyone else, but treat our own spouses and children with rudeness? Do we think less of them? Aren’t these the people we profess to love the most? Do we think them undeserving of common courtesies? Is it because we feel we can let down our guard and just relax and be our worst self with family?
I have decided to begin with myself, and try to be as polite with my family members as I am with others. I will say, “Please” and “Thank you”, “I’m sorry”, “Excuse me” and “Let me help you with that.” I will actively remember what I love about each one of them. When I am feeling impatient or angry, I might try to think, and really picture in my mind and heart, just how sad or lonely I would be if they were no longer in my life. I will try, every day, to be grateful for the love and blessings that they bring to me.