Me First!

Last weekend I attended a Taylor Swift concert with my youngest daughter and my nieces. While we were waiting in line (a long, long line at that…), a man and his young son pushed their way through the crowd to get in front of everyone. One of the other dads in line said quite loudly, “Me first, huh? What makes you so special?”

Later that week I was driving in traffic and sitting at a construction area waiting to get to my exit, which was coming up next. A car moved out of the lane and drove in the breakdown lane, blocking all of us trying to exit. A man yelled out of his window, “Hey, Jerk – get out of the way, what makes you think you are the only one that matters here?”

And my final incident was at an amusement park over the fourth of July. We were standing in line with our children, and a big boy came along and pushed all of the other kids out of the way to get to the ride. My son turned to me and said, “How come he can’t wait like everyone else, Mom?”

Me, first!! Why is it that some people do feel entitled to cut a line, drive around traffic, or push their way to the front as if the rest of the people waiting simply don’t matter? What happens to make a voice inside say, “I shouldn’t have to be like everyone else and wait!”

If we examine this, deep down we all feel like we should get to the front of the line faster than anyone else. I have my excuses – my sick child at home, my long day, my depressed state of mind, my martyr attitude that has worn me out. Why do I need to wait now? Really, someone should be waiting on ME! But the problem is that if we all have this attitude, who is left to actually wait?

In our culture, it is true that the squeaky wheel gets the oil. Very often, the person who sits and waits patiently gets overlooked. We are taught that it’s better to speak up, to be a bit pushy and to let our needs be known. But in many cases, we take it too far. We ignore the fact that other people matter too, and we really aren’t any more deserving or important than they are.

What could we sometimes do differently to hone our understanding that maybe we shouldn’t always get to the front of the line the fastest? It starts with having a level of compassion for another person. We tend to view the person in the car, or the person in the line, as having little humanity. They are just someone in our way, not a living, breathing, feeling person. And yet, as I write about in my book, if that person was found to be our friend or relative or neighbor, wouldn’t we feel a bit embarrassed that we pushed by them to get in front? Of course we would! We wouldn’t want to be seen as a pushy, aggressive, nasty person. That only fits when we are dealing with strangers…

What if we didn’t treat others as if they are strangers? What if we thought of them with some kindness and some interest in their well-being – as if they were someone we cared about? Instead of seeing the person in the car in front of me as a non-person, I could actually pretend it was someone I cared about. And I would then treat them quite differently; I might not be so quick to push myself ahead.

This week, if you find yourself in a situation where your inner voice is crying “ME first!” and you feel compelled to get ahead of the crowd, try and personalize the crowd. Make them people you know and people you care about. See if it changes your approach to dealing with them.