"Would you rather be Right? Or Happy?"

A neighbor forwarded me an email from the local Neighborhood Watch group.
It was full of updates about “the parking situation,” and a copy of an email sent to our local councilman.
Unfortunately, “the situation” revolved around my motorhome.
I’ll admit that my first reaction upon seeing accusations and unkind words about my beloved vehicle was anger.
I was also upset that a neighbor would email the councilman before emailing me. (My url is all over the vehicle.) Many people have emailed me saying they enjoyed seeing the pink on their commute. Only two have asked why I don’t move it. (A third person told me that it was offensive to park such a cheery vehicle on a corner where a violent crime occurred 10 years ago.) Apparently a number of additional neighbors have gone straight to the police.
I learned about the complaints from the nice officer who came by two days ago. The officer noted that I was compliant with the law, but that people were still upset.
It is an uncomfortable feeling to know that unknown neighbors are harboring resentment towards you. It makes me want to stay inside my house.
It also makes me want to rise up and challenge the attacks.

I wanted to park right in front of the complainers. Find a way to obey the law but while being as annoying as possible.
I wanted to attack the attitude that a row of shiny SUVs is pretty, but a unique piece of art is an eye sore.
I want to take each comment in the email, one by one, and dispute them.

But that would just create a fight.

I am reminded of an exchange I witnessed between my grandfather and one of his neighbors at the retirement community. While waiting for an elevator, he was being his jubilant and social self with the rest of the people waiting. Accidentally, he backed into a woman and stepped on her foot.
She EXPLODED in rage at him. Screaming about his clumsiness and lack of consideration. I felt the hair on my neck stand up, my muscles tenses, and I went into a fight-or-flight “PROTECT GRANDPA!” mode.

But he barely reacted at all.

He spun around and faced her humbly. “I am so sorry” he said, while holding the elevator door open. “Let me get the door for you. Please forgive me.”

I was still trying to calm my inner rage, and he had already diffused the situation. What stuck with me was that he did not react at all. It is one thing to feel the anger and then work to calm it down. It is another to be screamed in the face and never raise a heartbeat. He was pure love.

It was almost like a Jedi mind trick. She *wanted* to be angry at him. She was angry that he was so happy and whistling like an idiot. When he stepped on her toes it justified all the frustration and bitterness she harbored.
But when she swung her bat of righteousness at him, it hit nothing. It whooshed right through him like he was vapor. He gave her nothing solid to rail against – and the fight was over before it began.

I remember the exchange vividly. I remember being in awe of grandpa’s calm. I remember thinking, “That is the difference between practicing, and being.” Someday I hope to walk the walk like he does.
Clearly I am not there, yet. But I can still learn from him.

1) I cannot control how people react to my actions. I need to act from a place of Love, and trust that things will work out as they should.
2) If I am discover that my actions (even those coming from Love) *are* causing distress, acknowledge the situation and apologize for any negative reactions.
3) Look for a solution that is win-win. If that is not possible, find an agreeable cost/benefit situation. NOTE: This solution *may* be that the other person will have to deal with my actions. (Their discomfort does not outweigh the benefit of my actions.)

I am no stranger to rubbing people the wrong way. For years I cultivated that kind of interaction. “A pink furry bike makes you react so negatively!? WAKE UP!!!!”
But I have mellowed somewhat. (*cough* *cough*)
I am still sitting with this and have yet to send a reply to the neighborhood watch. But I am thinking my next steps will be:

1) Be vigilant about moving the RV every 72 hours. Start setting calendar alarms to ensure that all rules are followed.
2) Respond to the email with some (gentle) personal clarifications AND acknowledge my willingness to help with their big picture goal. (Which I understand to be “don’t let the street become an industrial storage area.”)
3) If needed, solicit some honest “pro-Hugmobile” emails to our councilman so that City Hall has a balanced view of “What the neighborhood thinks.”
4) Make sure they have my contact info and clearly leave the door open for future dialog.
5) Invite them all to join me in the Hugmobile this Saturday for our monthly “Help the Homeless” run.

When I told the police officer that my grandpa’s ashes were mixed into the paint job, he was a bit stunned. He was concerned about how I would ever be able to repaint or sell it without disrespecting my grandpa.
All I could think was, You don’t know my grandpa very well. His left his body 4 years ago this week. And this weekend his ashes are going to make (another) trip to skid row and help spread pink Love. I don’t think he feels disrespected at ALL. I bet he is stoked.

April 1, 2010

2 thoughts on “"Would you rather be Right? Or Happy?"”

  1. Thank you for sharing that elevator story – truly insipiring, just like Grandpa. I can’t believe it’s been four years already. I’ll be praying for the entry about when those who now have complaints and concerns get to experience first hand the love and joy of a ride in Huggy. Blessings, blessings and more blessings to you and them.

  2. Thank you, thank you.
    You have made my day and helped me realize how ridiculous some of my work was. I love your grandpa’s attitude and will try to use his wisdom more often.
    I will come and see you next burn, promise.

    PS: I am going to make t-shirts that say “Would you rather be Right? Or Happy?”… so fitting…

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