“מפני שיבה תקום” – “You Shall RISE Before the Aged” (Leviticus 19:32)
- A sign with the above quote from the Bible, instructing others to give their seat to an aged person who is standing, is posted on the window at the front of every bus in Israel. I ride the bus frequently and admit that I read it as a sign that applies mainly to the four seats at the front of the bus.
One morning when I was riding the bus into the city of Jerusalem and sitting comfortably in my seat in the middle of the bus, the woman sitting next to me, who was also sitting comfortably, went out of her way on the crowded bus to ask someone on the bus who was standing in the isle to tap an aged woman’s shoulder and motion to her to come and take the seat she herself was sitting in. The woman next to me got up from her seat, gave it to the aged woman, and stood on the bus until she got to her stop in Jerusalem, about a 30 minute bus ride.
I felt embarrassed that I did not think to go out of my way to do the same. But I took the experience as one I can learn from and committed myself to doing the same the next time the opportunity to do so arose.
The next week, I was taking the bus to Jerusalem again, and again I was sitting comfortably on the air-conditioned bus. A few stops into my commute, I looked up and noticed an aged woman standing and seized my opportunity to ‘do the right thing.’ I made eye contact with this woman and asked her if she wanted to sit where I was sitting. She smiled and waved her hand away, saying no, she was alright.
I smiled back and continued to sit in my seat, feeling proud of myself for ‘doing my part.’
One minute later, as if God was slapping me in the face, the young woman sitting next to me, GOT UP out of her seat and kindly told the very same aged woman to please take her seat and sit down.
I felt horrible and I learned something about myself that humbling morning on the bus.
I am a person who allows. I like to give people their space and give them the respect of making a decision for themselves. That is my nature, which is why coaching and the work that I do is such a natural fit for me.
But I had a major ‘aha’ moment on the bus that morning. I realized that yes, in my work, that approach, of allowing individuals to hear themselves and make personal choices based on what they want, is an appropriate and successful approach to apply with my clients . But this situation was different. This situation required me to literally stand up and be proactive.
So often we can go through life as passive agents. We may take the stance of, and even repeat the mantra, ‘if it’s meant to be, it will be.’ We let ‘life’ or others be in control of our lives, and make decisions for us, or take the initiative while we stand on the sidelines and wait for others to make things happen. This approach, then, often leads us to blame others or circumstances and not take responsibility for the disappointing situations we may be in.
I realized that morning that the most important words in the Biblical quote above are the words “Rise Up.” It doesn’t say ”politely ask whether or not someone else wants to sit there”, it says GET UP! Do it. Don’t talk about it, or ask anyone. Just get up and be proactive.
How many times in your life do you let others or ‘life’ navigate you?
When was the last time you took control, made your own choices, and followed through on those choices to create your own happiness and your own reality?
For me, reading and applying the tools in the book “Choice Theory” by Dr. William Glasser inspired me to fully take control of my own happiness and my life. I realized that by blaming others or things that I have experienced, I was still allowing others to have control over me, how I felt, and the choices that I made. It was only when I proactively stood up in my own life, so to speak, and took full control of my own happiness that I felt truly at peace and content with myself and my life.
This humbling experience on my morning commute was another reminder to me to be proactive and not wait on the sidelines of my life and let someone else do for me what I am capable of, and responsible for, doing on my own.