By John O'Leary. This was originally posted on JohnOLearyInspires.com. When John O'Leary was 9 years old, he suffered burns over 100% of his body and was expected to die. He is now an inspirational speaker and bestselling author, teaching more than 50,000 people around the world each year how to live inspired. John's first book, ON FIRE: The 7 Choices to Ignite a Radically Inspired Life was published March 15, 2016. John is a contributing writer for Huff Post and Parade.com. John is a proud husband and father of four and resides in St. Louis, MO. Order John’s book today anywhere books are sold
Does it seem like people are quick to anger these days? For many, it’s as if they go around seeking reasons to be disappointed, upset or infuriated. Have you noticed the hostility they share frequently makes things even worse?
But what happens when an individual who has every right to be upset chooses instead to respond with grace?
Years ago on an early morning Southwest Airlines flight, I had such an experience.
After reaching our cruising altitude, the flight attendants took drink orders and passed out a snacks. They then began serving the requested drinks to the passengers. A hot coffee was set on my drink table and the passenger sitting directly behind me was handed a Bloody Mary. (Hey, it was already 6:30 AM… and probably 5 o’clock somewhere… Don’t judge!)
Unfortunately, at that exact moment the plane hit turbulence and some of her drink spilled on the lap of the lady seated to her right. It was not a pretty scene. There was a lot of commotion, significant anger, and lots of words needing to be beeped out. It’s the kind of interaction we are, regrettably, too familiar with these days.
Fortunately, another passenger came to the rescue, trying to help clean up the mess that was now seeping into the aisle. Unfortunately, in bending down she accidentally lifted up the tray of the gentleman on the other side of the aisle. It was like a sitcom, but with absolutely no laughter.
A surprising response brings joy during a challenging situation.
The messy dominos of life were now falling. And as it sent his freshly brewed cup of coffee into his lap, the dominos weren’t done, yet. Concerned that he might get burned, the lady with the Bloody Mary actually took what was left of her tomato juice and poured it on his pants.
As a guy who’s experienced actual burns I can appreciate the gesture, but next time let him choose it for himself… and maybe with water, instead!
As the carnage eventually began to subside, I watched this unlucky victim wipe at his hopelessly drenched pants. During a time when many feel they’re entitled to allow little things to infuriate them quickly, he responded in a most surprising way. Although clearly heading to a corporate meeting and badly needing a new pair of pants, a most unexpected expression appeared on his face: a smile.
A flight attendant apologized profusely to him as he looked up from his pants, into her eyes, smiled again, and shared a quote I’ll never forget:
“It’s only coffee… and tomato juice.”
In the midst of the chaos, remember this truth.
My friends, things will happen this morning and this week completely out of your control. Global pandemics will spread… and the media will cover it. The weather will be hot… or cold. It will rain… or the drought will continue. She’ll be late, or he won’t show. The kids will whine, or the silence will be deafening.
But because of a man with a ruined pair of pants and a smile on his face, we now have a simple, better example on how to respond:
Not to wish that life becomes less messy, but to become wise enough to remember that it’s only coffee… and tomato juice.
Life remains a gift. Let’s choose to act like it.
Today is your day. Live Inspired.
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