On my way home last night, I stopped behind a blue Toyota Corolla at the Gold House traffic lights. I’m not really sure why, but the light took ages to turn green. This was a real problem for me because I desperately needed the loo. As I sat there on the verge of embarrassing myself, the light finally turned green. But the Blue Corolla wouldn’t move. It just sat there serenely while the cars in the other lanes whizzed by. I sat there gnashing my teeth in agony while the driver sat still as a statue in the car in front of me.
Second followed agonising second until I simply couldn’t take it anymore, so I did something that I usually frown upon – I tooted my horn. The Corolla driver sprang to life and moved off so I could finally be on my way. I remember thinking, “How idiotic to be so absent-minded at the wheel of a car. Don’t they know some of us have emergencies? They may have nothing sensible on their agenda, but some of us work with time”
I even found myself fantasizing about following the Corolla to the next traffic light, rolling down my window and asking the driver if they ever went school. For some strange reason, even after I got home, I still continued to fantasise about giving that reckless driver a piece of my mind. I fantasized about different variations of what I would have said to him/her in my righteous rage.
But then, I also started to imagine what the driver might have said to me when confronted. That suddenly gave my rage-filled daydreams a new twist. What if the driver said, “Oh I’m so sorry I didn’t notice the green light, I’ve just been to the hospital, and my doctor told me I have cancer. I’m so afraid I’m going to die. A single parent with two children…. I was just thinking, ‘who will look after my kids’ when you blew your horn. I’m so sorry. I know all this is none of your business, and I know you’re angry, so I’m sorry from the bottom of my heart”.
Can you imagine how ashamed I would have been? Utterly mortified. I would have wanted the ground to open up and swallow me. And I would have deserved it too. Serves me right for judging a person’s entire personality based on one mistake at a traffic light.
But don’t we all do this? Right or wrong, aren’t we all guilty of judging people based on one encounter? Don’t we assume people must be stupid for making basic mistakes? Do we ever pause to imagine what might be going on in their minds, in their lives – that might have caused them to make whatever mistake you may have witnessed? We get angry when people jump queues in the bank, or overtake carelessly on the roads, without pausing for a moment to empathise.
Earl Nightingale once said, “When you judge others, you do not define them, you define yourself”. We often project our own sentiments and temperaments onto others in a way that unfairly labels people we know nothing about. We would hate for it to be done to us, so let’s take a long pause before we jump in with both feet and make a fool of ourselves.
Judge not, lest ye be judged, and all that, eh?
My name is Kojo Yankson, and I don’t know what you’re going through, but I’m happy to listen.
GOOD MORNING, GHANAFO!