The Things That Define Us

If nothing else I am honest with myself.

And today, I was a horrible person.

I had to go someplace today during my work day.  It was related to work.   During that trip I passed a man I had known.  I know his name.  I know much about him because of work dealings with him.  As I approached him I made a very conscious decision to not speak.  I even made eye contact with him.

Does this matter?

As I approached, and first saw him, my heart nearly stopped in my chest. Every time I had seen him in the past I had this initial shock.    Even in my past dealings with him I had thought he resembled a man from my past.  A bad man.  A very bad man.  Not a man who physically did anything to me.  But  a man who I know to have physically and emotionally ruined many people.  Of course as soon as I had that reaction I knew it was not the man from my past.  It was the man I had had business dealings with.  A man that, when involved with him for work purposes I could handle his presence and what my job required of me.  Without any qualms.

Does this matter?

This isn’t the entire story.

There’s more.

Does it matter that the man sat in a wheel chair.  In a nursing home.  That I know he has no family.  No friends who can easily get to him.  That he is most likely very alone.  We made eye contact.  He was looking “at” me.  I was looking at him.  If he can still see, he saw me looking at him.   I don’t know that he can still see me.  I don’t know that he would remember me.   If he saw me.  If he did not see me he obviously responded to the sound of me approaching.   I do know that every single person that I passed in that hall, until I got to him,  I spoke to.

I did not speak to him.

I went to the front of the building and sat in a chair to write some notes while I waited to meet with someone else.

The pressure in my chest was building.  How could I do that?  I knew it was not the man he reminds me of.  I know that.  Without a doubt.

Regardless of my initial shock I knew he was not the man he resembled.  My head told me so.  My heart told me so.

But I passed this man, without speaking to him.  And it was  a conscious decision not to.

I believe it is the little things that define us.

And this moment was not a defining moment of good character.

I stood up to return to where he was in the hallway.   I walked to where he had been, and he wasn’t there.  He wasn’t in the room by where he had been sitting.  I looked at the name plates to see if any of those rooms were his.  They weren’t.  I didn’t know where he had gone.

Do I know if he saw me and even recognized me if he did see me?  No.  That doesn’t matter.  I know what I did.   I purposely did not share a kindness with a man.  A man who may have appreciated it.  I noticed him.  I make it a point to speak to others I pass.  And I pointedly did not speak to him.   Whether he felt the slight or not.  I slighted him.  For whatever reason.

Going back does not erase that moment.  That two second time frame.  Where for the rest of my life I will pass him in slow motion.  And not speak.

It may seem like a very small, and insignificant action and moment in time.

But, what if it wasn’t?

What if I had the potential to give him a smile and moment of kindness that may have made a difference in his day.

When we withhold a kindness do we ever know the impact it could have had?

What if I am sitting.  Alone.  Anywhere.  And there are others around.  And someone approaches who speaks to everyone but me.   Wouldn’t I be slighted?  Wouldn’t I?

It’s like what I say and believe about integrity.  You either have it, or you do not.  You can not have integrity part time or some times.

I am honest enough with myself to know that I am not proud of that moment.  I can’t erase it.  It now exists.

Our character is what we do.  How we act.  How we react.  We can not partial out the things that we don’t think matter.  All that we do, matters.    Even the little things of how we act, or don’t act,  are part of our definition.  And I can’t excuse the little things.

They may add up to something, someone, I do not want to be.