Musings

I Love When People Surprise Me

I confess, I often tend to have a low opinion of people.  There’s so often this incredible selfishness and entitlement that permeates everything in American society.  People are often rude, self involved, and think that they are speshul snowflakes who should be able to flaunt the rules.  I say this because I’ve seen it REGULARLY and dealt with it.  My husband deals with it in his job every day (I think anyone who works with the public probably does).

Yesterday’s meeting was not like that.  For which I am ETERNALLY grateful.  I could NOT have been more wrong about how that was going to go.   It was a nice session of information, clarification, explanation during which the kid took full responsibility for kid’s own actions.  How gloriously refreshing!  Nobody asked for a do over for missed work (color me SHOCKED) or did anything to try to strong arm me (it’s happened to other colleagues before, so it wasn’t an unreasonable expectation of what might happen) into special treatment or violating my principles.  I cannot tell you how proud I was of this kid.  Dad said…very little and was apparently along for moral support.  Which, hey great.  I’m grateful it wasn’t one of THESE parents.  Really have no idea why this conversation couldn’t be had over the phone, but some folks communicate better in person (I’m not one of them, so I have a hard time wrapping my brain around that).  So, all’s well that ends well and we are all much relieved.  Not sure I’ve ever been so glad to be WRONG before.

It’s got me thinking about karma and self fulfilling expectations though.  I mean, how often do we think about the negative and get…exactly that.  There is a certain level of self fulfilling expectations in that.  You get what you expect because that’s what you’re LOOKING for, so you’ve missed all the subtle cues that might point you in a more positive direction.  Human beings are literally programmed to place more weight and attention on the negative.  Nowhere is this more evident than in the proliferation of BAD CRAP in the mass media.  And that’s just a sad state of affairs.

Can’t it be that if we all made a concerted effort to look for the best in people, to expect the best from people, that more of them would deliver?  Some people naturally do this.  My pal Lauralynn Elliott is one of the best.  She always has the best outlook and is willing to give everybody the benefit of the doubt.

I think those of us who’ve spent time on the Cynic’s Side of the fence often look at those kinds of people as somehow naive or out of touch with reality.  But unless you’re talking about a solid fact, like the atomic weight of carbon, reality doesn’t actually exist.  There’s only PERCEPTION.  (Which, hey, does anybody else feel a compulsion to go watch Inception again for a lesson in THAT?)  Sure, we can’t control other people’s behavior (and overt attempts are often likely to backfire), but what if we, as a whole society just made a shift in how we deal with each other?  If we all expect the best, exert that subtle social pressure and focus on the positive, couldn’t we change the whole TONE of everything?

I mean, it works on other levels.  I have incredibly high expectations of my students.  I’m a hard ass teacher and I make no apologies for it.  And most of my students (after a rude awakening) tend to step up and work harder.  Because I expect them to.

So my challenge to myself (and all of you) today is to expect MORE from people.  Expect them to be good, be awesome.  Kid President issued the order, remember?  And maybe we’ll all be pleasantly surprised.

3 thoughts on “I Love When People Surprise Me

  1. When I saw what you wrote about me, tears immediately sprung to my eyes. Thank you for seeing the good side of how I look at life and people. Sometimes it DOES sound naive, and I actually had a friend say to me “Oh, don’t be so naive”. This friend is a very cynical person and she’s even afraid to use a debit card because she doesn’t trust people. (I have pointed out to her that when she writes a check people see her bank account info.) I don’t want to live that way. I think I’m a lot happier being positive.

    Yes, we should expect better things from people. Sometimes they just might surprise you and BE better than you thought they might. I like your challenge. And I LOVE Kid President. I would love to watch him grow up and be a great man. He has the potential. I hope nothing happens to ever take away that beautiful attitude he has.

  2. Not the same deal, but the related issue the affects of negative thinking. And this will be long.

    You know that I have been in Girl Scout Cookie Hell lo these past weeks–and weekends. And I was ticked. For some reason, cookie season is the girls’ favorite thing. They get really excited about it. And it’s the parents’ nightmare.

    Well, I went away for a weekend. It’s an annual thing that comes at the same time as cookie sales. I skipped it last year, because of the cookies, but this year I was cajoled–rather forcibly. I had cookie booth sales scheduled and was wavering on cancelling my trip, when my husband offered to do them for me. I mean, was totally supportive. So I said okay, if I can get another parent to help out, I’ll set you up. (Because selling alone is against the rules away, and it’s hard with one adult because you don’t want to send a kid to the restroom alone yet you can’t leave a couple hundred dollars of cookie unattended outside a store. Lots of reasons this is not a great idea.)

    Well, I couldn’t get anyone to help, so I had to cancel the Saturday booth. Then I rearranged my plans and came home early to work the two scheduled on Sunday with just me and my daughter and my husband for backup (which is also against the rules, but there was this rock and this hard place and there was me, getting a rash).

    By this time, I’m pretty annoyed, right? This is all on me. I’m not getting enough help from my parents, this whole cookie thing is totally messed up, thoughts of the GS Council make me rage. I’m never going to unload all these damned cookies…

    Next weekend comes around and two of the moms are going to try to make it on Saturday. The morning one comes around and I get a text that because it’s raining, that mom’s not coming. Okay, I get that, but because it was only drizzling by the time our slot came up, believe that we were there and slightly damp with the cookies under a plastic tablecloth. We were damp, but also one case o’ cookies closer to being done.

    But yeah, this did nothing to make me less annoyed. And my damp husband supportive in annoyance. And here’s a thing: I’m just contrary enough that I have to move to the other side. And I hear myself saying, it’s not that no one will help out. If we were a bigger troop, I’d have a larger pool of parents and a better chance of getting someone to show up. But with only a few girls… THAT’s what makes it hard. It’s not the people, it’s the numbers.

    The afternoon goes better. Two girls, two moms, we sell a bunch, the girls have fun. We stay for four hours instead of the two we originally planned. One of the moms feels bad they have to leave, but I find I don’t mind, actually, and the other mom sticks it out with me the whole time, for which I was genuinely grateful. I find myself remembering that as much as I’ve got other stuff in my life besides these cookies, so do these moms. And why WOULD they be as committed to getting through it was I am when it’s my responsibility? It makes no sense to expect anyone but me to be so invested.

    The next morning, my daughter and I were out by ourselves again, standing outside a grocery store under a small, dripping awning in a steady rain, which is never good for sales. The big difference was, I changed my mind. I looked at this as something I took on, rather than being put-upon. I decided to have fun and to be fun. I decided to enjoy my daughter. I decided to concentrate on the two of us who were there, and not worry about the people who weren’t. I decided to say good morning to anyone who looked our way instead of just nodding at them while thinking about things over which I have no control (like changing various cookie policies). We made a lot of people smile. People who had cookies at home already gave us donations. We sold out cookies. We FINISHED.

    A nice man even took my folding table from my hand, carried it to my car, and put it in my trunk for me, and I was able to teach my daughter the phrase “chivalry is not dead.”

    This was probably the best time I’ve had in Girl Scouts all year, and the difference was entirely in my head.

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