There’s an older man in a wheelchair who makes balloon animals for all of the kids near the Columbia Heights metro stop. No matter the weather, he’s out there. I walked past him the other day as a little girl ran to him smiling and squealing with delight. You’d think he was her long lost best friend. And he returned that smile right back to her. The two hugged and he immediately began twisting a balloon into a puppy for her.
That unparalleled joy from both of them showed me the power of connection, the power of giving and receiving. It can come from everyone to anyone everywhere at any time. It knows no limits nor bounds. A smile builds a bridge across every divide and level of diversity. It brings us all together.
My friend, Sara, posted this yesterday and it really helped me. Some people who will tell you what you can’t do. And once they realize you’re resourceful, they resort to criticism of anything in sight. I had that happen to me a few months back, and to be honest it’s been bugging me ever since. I couldn’t figure out why everything I did, said, had, or thought left him at least mildly dissatisfied. He is the kind of person that has a problem for every solution. And then, Sara shared this quote with me and something clicked.
His unhappiness had nothing to do with me. It never did. I was just in the unfortunate line of fire. It was him. It was always him. And with that realization, I stopped feeling badly for myself and actually felt badly for him. All the hurt I felt just melted, and I sent him a silent wish for happiness. I know my story better than anyone. He was telling me his story, not mine, and I hope that for his sake he finds a way to change what happens next rather than continuing down his current path. I know how a path like his ends, and it’s not pretty.
You can’t rescue someone from his own decision to be unhappy, but you can certainly rescue yourself from someone who just wants to bring you down. And by forging on, unhindered, you set the kindest example for that person—you show them that there’s a better way to live. Showing them what’s possible in your own strength is the greatest act of love there is.