They’re building on the lot next to my house. There’s constant noise and construction trash left behind. From drilling that begins at dawn to hammering that goes on until dusk, it’s annoying. Add dirt everywhere, plus a film of dust that covers the entire street, and it’s sometimes overwhelming.
In all fairness, my family and I knew what we were getting into when we moved to our neighborhood. From the beginning, we decided to adopt a positive attitude and just wait for the construction to end; after all, complaining wasn’t going make the mess go away. But I have to admit: a couple of times, the nuisance really frustrated me.
The first time was when a big semi truck blocked my driveway. With my best smile, I approached the driver and asked if he could please move his truck. He responded, “Is there an emergency? I’ll move it when I’m done unless there’s somebody dying.” Yes, he actually said that. For a second, I was speechless. He ended up moving it, but his rudeness upset me.
After this, there were days of ceaseless construction: endless trucks coming and going, plywood pieces flying into our yard, nails getting stuck in our tires—a complete mess. I was losing my cool. One day I attempted to leave the house only to discover a new truck blocking my driveway…again. I tried to remain calm as I alerted the construction crew, who moved it immediately. I asked if they could avoid blocking my entry. They said they would, but I didn’t believe them.
The very next day, I was rushing because my kids and I were already late for karate practice. It had been one of those days. “Get in the car, now!” I yelled as I grabbed the keys and jumped in the car. When I opened the garage door, the first thing I saw in the rearview mirror was a dark green pickup truck with a ladder on top, right there in my driveway. I let out the angriest “I cannot believe this!” I was not in a good mood.
I backed up my car a little so the workers could see I was leaving.
This is unacceptable! My thought to myself. Oh, they’re gonna hear me this time!
I could feel my pulse rising. I was done with this! My car was still in reverse when I saw this man, a construction worker, waving at me as he ran toward the truck. I got out of the car and said, “Why? Why would you do this? Please, sir, this is the third time this week. Don’t you guys have any respect?”
He smiled at me as I continued my rant. “I am so sorry, ma’am. Please accept my apologies. You are right—I shouldn’t have left the truck there. I’ll move it right now.”
Huh, I thought. I had not expected that.
“Well…” I went on, trying to justify my outrage, “it’s just that yesterday somebody did the same thing. I know it was not you, but it just keeps happening, and it’s pretty annoying.”
He kept smiling as he nodded. “I understand,” he said. “I’ll be working here for the next two weeks, and I’ll make sure to remind everybody not to park there.”
Suddenly I felt guilty for taking out my frustration on him.
My inner thoughts reprimanded me: You’re making a big deal out of nothing. You could’ve just asked him to move the truck.
The guy, who never stopped smiling, apologized one last time and ran to move his truck.
My kids had lowered the car window and listened to the entire exchange, which didn’t last more than two minutes. When I got in the car I was calm and smiling as a result of my exchange with the kind construction worker. My attitude had completely changed. I started driving and yelled “thank you!” as I waved enthusiastically.
I had been in a bad mood and ready to argue, but the man’s kindness killed my grumpiness. I don’t know the man. Maybe he’s the type of person who goes through life trying to be nice to everyone. Maybe he was just having a good day. Either way, he unknowingly taught my kids and me a lesson.
“Did you see what just happened there, boys?”
I tell my kids all the time that they shouldn’t let other people’s actions affect them, that the world needs more good-hearted people, and that kindness is a choice they should always make. That day I was not leading by example, but the construction worker was.
“Mommy was being grumpy, but that man was being happy,” my child replied.
Yes, indeed, kid. That man was kind and exuding positivity even though he had been working on a half-built house in the middle of summer’s excruciating heat, and he didn’t mind that the crazy lady was complaining. He didn’t let me ruin his happiness.
That short interaction perfectly exemplified that we might not control what happens, but we can control how we react to it. It reminded me that we can make the choice to smile and that there’s good in the world. My kids still remember the kind stranger who taught us this lesson, and I do too. Thank you, sir. The world needs more people like you.