Apr 212012
 

 

Here’s is another life lesson that I learned while lecturing to divorced parents.

 

          As you may recall, I often lecture to a mandatory parent education presented by the Los Angeles Superior Court. Recently, I was lecturing to a group that included many caustic individuals. One woman, in particular, was quite angry.  She was angry about having to be there. She was angry about the results of her most recent court hearing. Above all else, she was angry about the father of her child being given the right to make decisions about that child’s life. “What right does he have?” “He wasn’t interested in her before I left.” “He’s just interested in reducing his child support payment.” As she vented her anger, several of the parents around her decided to join in. After a few more questions were raised, she said to me, “Well, what do you have to say?”  She was thoroughly unhappy with my position that I was happy the other parent had become interested in his child, I hoped that his interest in her would continue, and that I felt it was in her child’s best interest for her to be supportive of the father’s interests in the child. I ended the discussion by saying that although it may not be true in all cases, I thought that it was important for people to focus on what was best for their children rather than what might make one of the adults in the matter feel better.

          As I collected the evaluation forms, I tabbed that woman’s sheet because I was particularly interested in her comments. As could be expected, she referred to me as being the “mother of the Brady Bunch” who lived in a fantasy world, etc., etc., etc.. She also took offense to my unstated position that most children would like their formerly uninvolved parents to become active in their lives. The remainder of the comments were very angry.

          After the presentation, I walked to my car in the long-since-empty parking lot. Actually, there was one other car in the lot.  On the hood of the car sat the woman who had been so angry with me. As I came closer to her, it was obvious that she had been crying. She told me that she did not read the sign as she entered the parking lot, she had only a few dollars with her, and did not have enough money to pay what she owed to the parking attendant.  Although she did not ask me for money, it was clear that she needed my help.  I paused for a moment.  Although there was no question that I would help her, I was quite tempted to ask her if she would like to reconsider the comments that she wrote on the form.

          The moral of the story should be clear: you just never know when you will need help from another person. More importantly, you will never know who will be the person from whom you require assistance. It might be the person you just cut-off on the freeway.  It could be the person with only one item to purchase that you refused to allow to step in front of you in the line at the market. Perhaps it will be the neighbor that you are too busy to find time to stop and chat with.  Maybe it will be the Girl Scout who you avoided so that you would not have to buy a box of cookies.  The list is endless. The point is that each time you choose to take “the low road” in life, you place yourself at-risk for being treated that way by others.  Take time this week to consider how you could change your behavior to take “the high road” whenever possible.  Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Have I considered the feelings of others when I am deciding how to behave?
  2. Have I made choices that I might later regret?
  3. Am I guilty of “taking the low road”?
  4. What can I do to behave in a more gracious manner with others?
  5. How can I help myself to “take the high road” whenever possible?

You might be interested in what I chose to do in the parking log.  I bit my tongue and said nothing to the woman about her comments. Although I did not have enough money to pay for both of us to leave the parking lot, I did give her what I could. As I drove off, I thought to myself, “This is just another example of how thankful I should be for the circumstances of my own life.”

Susan C. Rempel, Ph.D.