Friday 1 February 2019

Thought Picnic: Of character building moments

As I walk
Building character is an evolutionary activity that is under constant review, assessment, reflection and adjustment. At least, that is how I think about it.
One episode this morning caused me to reflect on some of my attitudes to certain situations. It had snowed in Reading and as the pavements had not been gritted, one had to be careful as one walked from the hotel to the railway station.
As I walk briskly, albeit, with a walking cane, I am careful and usually do not expect to have to manoeuvre run more able-bodied people on the street. I would tend to walk close to buildings as well as follow the crowd.
Don’t talk back
I turned the corner and almost walked into someone coming up against me, I made my excuses and he walked around me. The next person simply ignored what had happened in front of him and made to stand in my way when I swung my cane directing him to walk to the right of me as there was no space to the left of me.
He followed my guidance, but as he passed me, he said, “Don’t use your stick at me.”, I then looked back at him as said, “You’re being an idiot.” As the words came out of my mouth, I was both agitated and deflated. I regretted it.
The situation made me reflect on why I had to answer back because there was no reason to. Once he had followed my directions, whatever way he felt about it should have been left to him as I had achieved my goal of, standing my ground and keeping my lane.
Tackle and leave
I felt diminished by the unnecessary outburst and promised myself to do better. I have on many occasions set in motion an act with the aim of attaining a goal and left at that. Engagement beyond having instigated my action simply develops into unhealthy interactions one can do without.
It reminded me of one instance where travelling in the 1st Class compartment of an international train, I could neither relax nor nap because a child was completely implacable and an unruly disturbance. I got up and loudly addressed the parent to see to their ward then sat down.
For 5 minutes the father abused and railed, cursed and vituperated vitriol to the point of exhaustion. I ignored him. By that time, the child was quiet, we all could relax and the journey ended peacefully. From the little intervention, I had achieved what everyone wanted, peace and quiet. I don't dislike kids, but where parents are not embarrassed enough for their kid's behaviour to be seen to do something about it. They do have to be called out.
Achieve the prize
My not engaging the father at all meant the situation did not escalate or degenerate into a breach of the peace. Yes, I took brickbats for it, it was completely worth it.
I can be a better man even if people cannot be reasonable or considerate when they encounter me. I do not have to revel in the uncouth just to impact them. Silence is golden and worth its weight in gold. That is the building of character, only engage when your aim is about to be defeated, else, leave, your aim achieved and your dignity intact.

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