A beautiful essay on compassion and listening, by my longtime friend Iris Baker-van Turnhout:
This morning I got a profound lesson in “never be too quick to judge”—especially in current times.
We are at a location, shooting for 4 days. Yesterday, we were all on the front porch for one shot. Across the street, a man was tinkering with his car. After he was done, he got into his car, revved it up, looked at us with a face full of anger, and flipped us off.
His anger was palpable and so surprising. We all wondered what we did to offend him this much. We wondered if this was the new normal. Dealing with people who have so much hate and anger and now feel justified to let it out in the open. No more holding back. Human decency gone.
It stayed with me the rest of the day and evening. Then this morning, when I got to set, I saw him again in his front yard. Not sure what it was, but something compelled me to walk over there and reach out. Making sure it wasn’t anything we did and could perhaps change.
I wished him good morning and explained that we were the ones on the front porch yesterday. Then I said, “I noticed you were having a bad day. Is there anything we did to make you feel upset? Is there is anything we can do to make it better?”
He looked at me, and his eyes welled up with tears. He apologized profusely and explained that he had just lost a child. It had been sudden, and the funeral was a few days before. His fiancé was in another part of the country, and they couldn’t be together to grieve.
Reach out, talk to people, and be open to the stories they have to tell.
“I have emotions coming out I never knew I had, and I don’t know what to do with them,” he told me. He seemed lost in his own world of grief and sadness. Now it was my turn to well up. We spoke for awhile, and I told him, “We are right across the street if you need anything.” We brought him dinner from our on-set catering that night. It was the only thing we could think of to do for him.
The moral of this story: Please keep believing that not all you see is evil. Not everybody’s intention is bad. Not every expression of anger has to do with “them vs. us.” There are still people with personal grief, or people who are simply having a bad day.
This is also a reminder to not get wrapped up in your own explanation of things that are happening, but to reach out, talk to people, and be open to the stories they have to tell, even when they are not an expression of your own beliefs.
I said this the day after and I will say it again: Fear paralyzes and clouds our judgement. If you are angry, then take positive actions to change things. Don’t direct your anger to a group or person who thinks differently then you do and then expect this world to get better.
We can do better than this, be better than this. Before you assume, learn the facts. Before you judge, understand why. Before you speak, think. And as always BE KIND.