Are you reacting or responding?
What do a rotisserie chicken and a kitchen sink have in common?
It’s been an interesting week for me—I don’t know whether it’s been a phase of the moon or some other sort of joke on the part of the Universe, but practically every day this week I faced a situation in which I had to work very hard to remind myself that what was required was a thoughtful response, not a knee-jerk reaction: there was one on the work front, one on the parenting front, a few on the business front….
In social media terms, “@TheUniverse: WTH?!?”
Breathe, I told myself. Be mindful, I said. Try to see it from another perspective, I reminded myself in my best coaching voice. Flying off the handle and reacting is NOT going to solve anything.
Of course, everything worked out. (@TheUniverse: I hear you laughing, so let’s add “for now” to that sentence.)
But this week made me consider that “reaction” has started to have a very negative connotation: there are definitely times to react in a positive fashion as well as to respond in a thoughtful manner, and that’s where the chicken and the kitchen sink come in:
- When my son arrived 2 months prematurely, I worked as a parish administrator at a church, and “the church ladies” responded: they planned out “the casserole ministry,” which was a huge lifesaver once everyone figured out what day they were covering, what they would bring, etc. And one parishioner/neighbor reacted: the minute she found out, she was on the doorstep without a preamble: “Here’s a roasted chicken from the market—I’m sure you can use it,” she said to my completely overwhelmed and somewhat speechless husband.
- When our kitchen sink began to—sorry, there’s no other word for it—sink, I posted a picture and a plea on Facebook: “Does anyone know what I should do about this?” Plenty of people responded with advice. One friend texted, “I will fix it—when can I come over to take a look?” And within the week, it was done, gratis.
What do they have in common? Both were part of a situation in which people reacted immediately, from their hearts, and with an intention to be of help without pausing to think. And both Stephanie and Kevin will always have my deep gratitude.
Just some food for thought in a time when reminders to “be mindful” have started to feel a bit tired and reacting negatively (rather than responding in a constructive fashion) has become all too common: Feel like lashing out in anger? Maybe take time to respond instead. But if your reaction comes from the heart and helps someone, skip the overthinking: perform a random act of kindness and pay it forward.
How have you reacted positively to someone else’s distress? Pat yourself on the back and exercise your bragging rights in the comments.
What reaction from someone else will you always be grateful for? Drop a note of thanks in the comments…and maybe even thank them again in person if you can—there’s no statue of limitations on gratitude.