Walk in My Shoes, Please


I was walking down the sidewalk the other day. All of a sudden, I hear a horn honk from behind me. It scared me, because the vehicle was definitely close behind me on the road. Then, the vehicle honked again… not a long blast… just a short “honk”. I walked faster. I didn’t know what was happening behind me, but I didn’t want any part of it.

 If you’ve ever been walking/running on a sidewalk when a car honks, you understand what I mean. When I was training for my marathon, I ran many, many miles down many, many sidewalks. I learned to assume the driver didn’t see me even when I had the right of way. You learn quickly that you are the underdog in the battle of car vs. human. You will 100% lose that battle. When a car honks behind you, your brain immediately tells you danger is near and starts pumping adrenaline through your veins: your body goes into a pumped-up overdrive of hormones to prepare you for fight or flight. 

After 3 honks, the car pulls over beside me. Again, my body floods me with defensive chemicals…. Because… stranger danger!  I am ready to defend myself to the best of my ability. The driver rolls her window down to….. ask a question.

That is all she wanted. The lady wanted an answer to her question, and she thought I looked like a person that could help her. So, she honked her horn 3 times to get my attention. I don’t think she was trying to be mean or rude. She thought it was a good way to get my attention.

And, she got it alright – just not in the way that she expected.

Now, I answered her question (with a shaky, fearful voice), and she went on her merry way. There was no drama in my reaction, and the driver was none the wiser of the fear she had created in me. She drove on, and I continued walking. The adrenaline finally ran its course out of my system. No harm, no foul. I did not react in the way that I had perceived her actions.

But, I share this story with you, because sometimes we get reactions we didn’t expect from others. And, we often don’t understand why they react the way they do. It is all about each person’s perspective. 

I could have started running in the opposite direction. I could have started screaming at her for scaring the bejesus out of me. I could have pulled out mace to defend myself from my “attacker”… because, my brain and body were 100% sure we were about to be hit or confronted in some way by the driver of this car.

If I had done any of those things, she would have been shocked to see that reaction. From her perspective, she just wanted my attention and wanted me to give her an answer to her question. She, herself, has probably not walked down a lot of sidewalks and had those same experiences of potential danger. And, because she has had a completely different set of experiences, she thought it was a great idea to honk then pull up next to me.

Take a minute to walk in someone else’s shoes – especially if you don’t understand why you are getting a different reaction than what you expected. Heck, if you can have that mental exploration before you start a conversation, that would be a bonus.

Of course, you may not know what someone else’s circumstances are… most of us will never know the other person’s full story. But, you can imagine. Awareness that their perspective is different from your own is a start to understanding. 

So, next time you are faced with an unexpected reaction, take a moment to appreciate that you will never see the world the same way as anyone else. Each of us comes with a unique perspective – our own window to view the world. Find the grace to allow others to bring their perspective to your shared experience.

Have a great day. And, please don’t honk at me when you are passing by. LOL