Sometimes you’re just tree #4 in someone else’s life. This anecdote from Bob Goff’s Everybody, Always, really struck me. I’m not the hero or the villain, I may just be tree #4, part of the scenery in someone else’s life.
At the grocery store I asked the woman bagging if she could use paper bags for some of the groceries as well. She gave me a frustrated and irritated look and started taking the items out of the plastic bags. I was surprised.
“Oh, no. You don’t have to do that. I just meant to use paper as well,” but she continued removing the items from plastic for the couple bags she’d started and finished bagging in paper.
I could’ve been offended at her angry look and behavior, felt bad, or took it personally. I could’ve let her behavior affect me and my day.
Instead, I reminded myself sometimes you’re just tree #4.
She was clearly having a bad day and I hit a nerve by asking her to bag some groceries in paper as well. Who knows what happened moments or hours before on her shift.
Either way I’m a blip on her life radar of bigger issues, worries, and concerns. So why do I need to make it more than a blip on my own radar of life? I don’t.
Instead, I need to remind myself to love everybody, always, as Bob Goff demonstrates with gusto and humor in his book (which I highly recommend if you haven’t noticed).
This may look different for everyone.
You may say a prayer for this woman and peace in her day and circumstances.
You may smile at her and tell her I hope you have a better day.
Or you may just walk away, understanding that you’re just tree #4 and move on.
How to Live as Tree #4
Recognize the bigger perspective:
Each character has his/her own concerns. You may play a minor role in them. That’s ok.
Even if you have a minor role, you can still have a big impact. What would the play be like without scenery? Blah. Scenery adds vibrancy and context, for all those involved.
Even though we may have a minor role in a person’s life during our daily encounters, we can still have a big impact.
If we respond with anger in turn when someone else is angry or frustrated, now we both are upset and the situation has escalated. Making a small moment into a bigger one with more weight and meaning.
If I go home offended or angry based on an incident with a person, now I may in turn unintentionally take out my negative emotions on the people I love.
If I choose calm and compassion, despite my emotions wanting to do otherwise as a defense mechanism, I may just help bring calm and positivity to another person’s life, just when they most need it.
Embrace being tree #4 in the lives of those you encounter. Recognize your important part in the story that unfolds. Sometimes you’ll play the leading role, sometimes the supporting role, and sometimes just tree #4.
May you find comfort and empowerment in the various roles you play in your life.