By Richard E. Bleil, Ph.D.
A few years ago, I was waiting in line at a grocery store, with customers behind me. Ahead of me was a young woman and a young man that I assume was her brother. She seemed to have had some kind of brain developmental issue. In my life, my mental acumen has always been important to me, and as such, my heart goes out to people who struggle with these types of problems.
I smiled to him and nodded, then smiled and nodded to her.
She laughed at me.
Yup, clearly looking straight at me, she started to laugh. Hysterically. Belly laugh. At me. Just off of work, I was in my sports jacket and tie, just minding my own business, waiting to pay for my, well, I don’t remember what it was I was at the store that day, so for the sake of the story, let say that I needed….ummmm…..oh, I don’t know, suppositories for the sake of the story.
And she laughed at me. Her brother (I assume) seemed to tense up. He looked down, glancing sideways with his eyes as if to want to apologize. The people in the line, the checkout person, everybody seemed suddenly tense.
And me? Yup, my first instinct was the typcial “guy” response. I tensed up, felt the need to confront her, and find out just what was SO FUNNY?!? But, you know, I kept my cool.
I never knew what her condition was, but it occurred to me that it must have made for a challenging life. I couldn’t imagine a world where I couldn’t go out on my own, where I had to struggle to understand basic conversations around me, where I couldn’t understand basic principles. I’m not sure how severe her condition is, but in that instant, with tension all around me, with her destroying my fragile male ego by laughing at me, she stole my heart, so what could I do?
I laughed with her.
To this day, I have no idea what she found so funny, but whatever it was, for at least a little bit of time, it brought joy into her life. So, in one of the best decisions of my life, I let her destroy my male ego. I let go of that weird knee-jerk defensive garbage that men seem to face, and I laughed with her.
Then her brother laughed. The people behind me laughed. The checkout person laughed. We were all laughing, and we were all laughing at me.
I don’t know what it is in our genetic makeuip. Or, honestly, if it’s men, or everybody. But pride is a rediculous thing. We all had such a great laugh, she undoubtedly had a great day, and I have a story that I can proudly tell you all. And all it required…was letting go of my ego.