Not long ago, someone threw a drink on me.
I was walking down the street to grab lunch, and out of nowhere – an open cup full of soda hit me square in the shoulder and I was soaked.
I didn’t see the driver of the car that did it, but I watched them head off down the street.
My first reaction is surprise. “I can’t believe that someone did this. Who does that?
Then it turned into anger. “My clothes are ruined; how could they do this?”
And then it turned into insecurity. “I wonder if it was because I am gay. I wonder if it was someone that doesn’t like me. I wonder if it’s because I am at this location on the street. What did I do to cause this person to throw a drink at me?”
Because I had meetings for the rest of the day, I diverted into a store and bought a new outfit, (with the exception of shoes). I told the cashier what had happened and they let me change in the dressing room and I threw out my old clothes. During this time, I kept trying to process what happened. I bounced back and forth between anger and despair.
For the rest of the day, every step I took I felt defeated and unwanted. My meeting went awful because I couldn’t focus and I didn’t have the confidence to use my voice – and I left it not getting the resolution I was hoping for. On the way home, my driving was erratic and aggressive. Luckily I wasn’t involved in nor caused an accident.
I thought to myself, “because of this XXXX, I got hit by soda. If it wasn’t for XXXX, this never would have happened.” I was drawing blanket conclusions as to why this happened to me and blaming things that most likely have no correlation to my incident. I wanted to get on social media and blast every person/group/etc. for somehow being involved in this act of violence that ruined my meeting and the rest of my day. I wrote my post 4 times, in different ways to phrase what I was feeling in my mind. I looked at other media sources to see how I could justify my rage about what happened to me.
But then . .
I thought to myself, “maybe this has nothing to do with me.” Maybe this person has had a bad day. Maybe this person thought I was Ryan Reynolds, (I get that all of the time, believe me) and didn’t like his last movie. Maybe they got fired, or a loved one passed away, or they may be upset about the same issues that bother me, and that’s how they chose to process it.
If I had the chance to meet this person face to face, how would I handle that? Would I, “come in hot” and let them know how mad they made me? Or would I want to understand why they did it. What if they realized (however long after) that they made a mistake? Would I take the opportunity to affirm their perception if true, (totally the Ryan Reynolds thing, right?) Or would I try to show them that I am not that bad? Start a dialog perhaps, listen first – speak later. I don’t know, I would like to think that I would at least try to hear them out.
After I got hit, I still went in the same direction down the street I was planning on going. I went and bought an outfit – which honestly, I needed more polos anyway PLUS it was nicer than what I was wearing before. I bombed my meeting because I let this get to me in such a way that I gave up before I even had a chance. I’m sure everyone that was driving near me on the way home had some very choice words and gestures they either wanted to or really did gave me. But I still made it home.
The more I thought about what maybe this person was going through, and perhaps that it was just a wrong place/wrong time situation helped me to get closure. It helped me to walk down that same street the next day, and it helped push me to go do something I needed to do anyway.
My point is, that I am seeing a lot of, “soda throwing” going on everywhere. Much like the soda, blanket generalizations of people are lobbed towards another group – not because they personally did anything – but because we assume they are against us – or because you are “one way” you must be “this way”.
This is dangerous. Much like sexuality – faith, political beliefs, gender, etc. are a spectrum. Yes, there are terrible things going on and yes we’re all hurting one way or another – but how you choose to project that onto others really is telling about your character. Will you prove your point by throwing your soda at someone you perceive as being, “the enemy”? Are you adding to that bad reputation by acting out and negatively affecting someone else?
Yes, a soda-soaked shirt doesn't even come close to issues we are, as a human race, faced with. We all know things aren’t working out for one reason or another. As much as I hurt, about recent events (soda included…still), I have seen more compassion and unity than ever. The solidarity at peaceful marches, the messages of support on social media, and the examples of bridges being built despite how polarizing it has become is pretty great. People are continuing to get hit by soda, and still walking down the street in the direction they were going in the first place. People aren't letting events get them down, they are "buying a new polo" and seeing better ways to make the world a better place.
I think that is the most inspiring part for me – and makes me want to do more, learn more, and grow more. I’ve learned more about “the other side, whomever that may be” in growing this organization than I ever had before. I see how my actions make them feel. I know how their actions make me feel – but I keep going. And some of them have even come around!
In conclusion – I’m proud of you, for doing what you feel is right. I’m more proud that you are chosen to take the negative and adjust it into the positive. I’m even more proud that you are still heading in the direction that is best without bringing others down. Remember that we have a choice when someone throws their soda, it’s up to you on what you do next. (Hint: Get the "polo".)
(I apologize to my friends, family and co-workers for not telling you this happened to me. Still love you all tons!)