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Struggling with loving kindness on a bus

I was on the bus and quietly contemplating the challenges of seeing the best in people generally and smiling more at the world when the mother ran the pushchair over my foot and the dog’s feet which I’d checked were well out of the way. When I yelped (mostly with surprise but I suppose also with a bit of pain) she angrily asked me where she was supposed to park her pushchair?

My auto response to someone shouting at me when I felt I was the injured party was annoyed irritation. Though I didn’t snap back, I rather ungraciously muttered sorry, I hadn’t even seen she was there.

I slumped back into annoyed reverie and then remembered I was supposed to be smiling at the world. Once the thought planted itself, I couldn’t get rid of it. I couldn’t smile from the heart at my annoyed neighbour and if I couldn’t freely smile then I didn’t want to force a grudging one.

Still full of injured victim thoughts I began to think about what she was thinking when she got on the bus. Was I in the way maybe a bit? Her child was mid tantrum. Maybe she’d had a bad morning and was too distracted to ask me politely to move so she could do pushchair manoeuvres more easily? Maybe she thought I was rude for not making the slightest attempt to create more space. In the midst of my injured victimhood I sensed there was another perspective. I didn’t have to agree with this alternative narrative but it created a tiny space for a bit more chesed (loving kindness). Enough to prompt a tiny bit of active mussar practice.

With a renewed sense of possibility, I smiled from the heart at the now sulky quiet child. Who smiled back. And the mother watched. Maybe also a little less annoyed now.

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