Kind Promise: I will share strengths.

excited woman on a busParatransit provides transportation for those of us with disabilities who can’t use fixed route vehicles.For me it’s also a classroom. I am always learning from my fellow passengers. The other day, a woman with mental disabilities entertained me with her wide-eyed wonder and positive attitude.

“We’re going over cars!” she whooped as we drove on a traffic overpass. She was even more excited when we went over the river. “Uh-oh…. They must’ve been speeding. You’re not supposed to speed,” she cautioned as we passed a car pulled over by a cop. She asked me about my life, offering encouragement (“you must love that little dog…”) and told me about hers (“I put the silverware in the napkins.”) The driver rolled his eyes at her constant chatter, but I left the bus heartened and energized.

We share strengths by being who we are.

My bus companion was not consciously trying to do anything for me. She was opening to the world around her and including me in her experience.

It’s easy for me – so conscious of my own failings – to think “I have nothing worth sharing.” I need to open to the possibility that strengths of which I’m unaware may be a blessing to others.

But what if I’m irritating?

I found my bus companion charming, but the driver found her annoying. As he unloaded me and my wheelchair, he thanked me for listening to her and mentioned that he was not looking forward to the half-hour drive to her destination. He had choices to make. He could say something (“I need to concentrate on my driving – would you please stop talking to me?”) Maybe that would stem the flow; maybe it wouldn’t. If not, he could decide whether to say something else or adjust his attitude.

If I hear from people – especially from several people – that something about me is irritating them, then I have choices too. There are some people around whom I curb certain tendencies of mine. I like those people and I want them to like being around me.

I want to be merciful with myself, so I don’t spend much time chastising myself for how I am. With some discernment, I can decide whether I’m dealing with a personality quirk or a character defect. If it’s the former, I choose my audience. If the latter, I start working the problem: gathering more information, creating practices and experimenting with them.

By being who we are, we share our strengths with others and reveal for ourselves areas in which we can grow and heal.