Seth Godin’s Blog Hits Close to Home

Here is yesterday’s post from Seth Godin:

For generations, people dumped crap into the Hudson River. The river was so large and so swift that they assumed that the effluent wouldn’t come back to haunt them.

Of course, it did, killing the oyster beds and poisoning the public.

How big does a body of water have to be before we forget that we’re swimming in it? That it all comes around.

Why are we are okay at yelling at a stranger, but not our neighbor? We will abuse the department in the other building, but not down the hall…

It turns out that the pool/river/tub that we live in is far smaller than it seems. The culture of the place we work, the vibe of the community where we live. It’s all more connected than we realize.

His post reminds me of an incident that I’d rather forget, but I don’t think I ever will.

About 25 years ago I was asked to teach a non-credit course at a local college on how to use Microsoft Office.

When I arrived on the first night to teach the class there were a few minor glitches which delayed the start of my teaching, and I went searching for the person in charge of running the program. For whatever reason, when I found the person, I just went off. The woman in charge was an older woman, and she was helping me as best she could, but I didn’t think she was doing enough. I started saying things like “this program is a joke”, “this college is a joke”, and other derogatory comments.

Yes, I was quite full of myself, and quite the jerk.

I felt bad the next day, but I just assumed the incident would go away, so there was nothing to worry about.

Well, that was not quite true.

A few days later I was at Villanova for a team meeting for a research project I was part of. After the meeting, there was some small talk, and I discovered that one of the other people on the team also taught part-time in the non-credit program I had just gotten involved with, and he knew the woman very well that I had been rude to. I never told this guy what I did, but I always had the sense over the next several years whenever I saw him that he knew what happened and viewed me in a less favorable way than he had previously. And with good reason.

It was then that I realized how small the world is, and that you never know when seemingly separate parts of your life will collide with each other.

The incident also verifies Seth’s statement that it is much easier to yell at a stranger than a neighbor.

Fast forward 25 years and I think I’ve gotten better at handling such situations, but it’s also nice to get reminders like Seth’s that we are all connected, and we should treat each other with kindness and respect.

*photo from Americans for Constitutional Government Reform