Yesterday I talked about my encounter with an angry man and his little daughter at the gas pump.
I had just returned from Sydney, Australia. While in Sydney, I was struck by the kindness and friendliness of people to each other and especially the way fathers were tending their offspring. Back in the U.S., at a gas station, when the man called his three year old “little bitch” and swatted her on the butt, I was startled out of my “la-la land” comfort zone.
In my programs, I teach about healthy and appropriate boundaries, when to intervene and when to stay at arm’s length. This one was a close call. I took a deep breath and was ready to give the man my most disgusted, mean look and drive off. Yet, my eyes caught the little girl wiping her own eyes and looking at me imploringly (or so I thought).
In our Total Leadership Connections program, we have a fun wombat mascot who says, “Yo, listen up. We are all connected and no one wins unless we all do.”
The girl watched as I went over to the dad and said the following, “Hi. I can see your little one is very lively and was picking the wrong time to play hide and seek with you. I know when my daughters were little, there were days I was furious and just wanted to get done what I had to do. All I want to say is I understand your frustration, and yet, she is so small to get such a harsh response from you. I hope you can find a moment to give her a smile and a hug, she could use that right now.”
I started to walk away, yearning to go back to Australia (although I am not so stupid to think this kind of thing does not happen there).
I did not want a big, long discussion with the man. I had no place to coach him. However, what happened next was powerful.
The man reached over to shake my hand. He thanked me. He then told me they were coming from seeing the little girl’s mother who was in rehab. He was so afraid that his daughter would end up like his wife who had “that same lively nature.”
I took his name and address and told him I would send him a copy of my GUTSY book to give to his wife. I suggested he even read it himself to shine some insight into women and maybe even help him learn more about what his daughter would face.
I drove away, leaving Australia far behind and started thinking, once again, about how patterns of behavior get passed from generation to generation.