My first job out of college was as a collections call center supervisor. I joined the company as part of a management training program and this was my first rotation. Looking back offers twenty-twenty vision and I can see now just how obnoxious I must have been. I thought I was way too good for that job and I am sure I let everyone around me know it. I am embarrassed to think about how self-centered and arrogant I was. My twenties were not my finest moments.
The interesting thing is that was the best job I ever had with the best company I ever worked for. I just wasn't mature enough to know it at the time.
My third rotation was as a supervisor in the titles and contracts department. I was still a little too self-important and looking to prove just how smart I was. Elizabeth Day was a member of my team. Ms. Day was worn down. You knew this to look at her. She had a middle school aged daughter that she adored. Ms. Day had a teaching degree from Auburn University. Yet, she worked at an hourly job processing missing titles.
I didn't like her from the start. She worked reduced hours. She had been with the company a long time. She had seen many twenty something, college educated supervisors rotating through her department. The truth is I don't think she liked me much either.
I made it my goal to learn Ms. Day's job. To make her replaceable. I wanted her to work full-time like the rest of my team. She knew this is what I wanted. She needed her job. And I lacked empathy and compassion. I wasn't outwardly mean. I didn't break any rules. I treated her with respect. But that doesn't mean I was doing the right thing. We don't always have to point out the weaknesses of others. We don't always have to pour salt in wounds. We can offer to love even when we don't like.
Somewhere her life had taken a hard turn. I could have tried to help her. I could have been understanding. I could have made a point not to add to her stress.
One morning my manager called me into her office. Ms. Day had died over the weekend of a heart attack. She was gone. And I was heart broken. I still think about Elizabeth. I still regret that I didn't love her better.
The summer Grace had her surgeries, during the darkest time of my life, our Radley died. We didn't know he had bone cancer in his hip. We just knew he was old and his joints ached. One day after weeks of barely sleeping I saw Radley put his front paws on our kitchen table and eat Jack's lunch off of his plate. I swatted Radley on his left hip. He growled at me and I felt bad immediately. This was another Ms. Day moment. A moment when I should have been kinder. When I should have been patient and offered compassion. Instead I was angry. I was focused on my needs and my frustrations.
I still have Ms. Day moments. Unkind words about someone I barely know. Impatience with my children. Self-centered conversations. Straight up meanness because I am tired or weak or insecure. These moments are more rare for me than they once were. I am softer now. I try to think before I speak. But mostly, somewhere along the way I found compassion.
I now know that everyone has a reason for how they behave. People have a source for who they are. How they got to this place. It isn't our purpose to pass judgement. It is only our place to love. To love the broken. To love the successful. To love those that have what we want and to love those that challenge our happiness.
Compassion is the key. It isn't just about making the road easier for the other person. It actually makes us feel better about ourselves. I love Ms. Day for teaching me this important life lesson.