I went into London this week to do an interview for my book, and had a bit of time in hand so went to a coffee shop by Warren Street underground. There was an empty seat by the window and I asked the lady in the chair next to it if anyone was sitting there (a formality- there was patently no one to be seen). She said it would be all right but then as I settled myself in, she and the man beside her stood up and walked to another part of the cafe, noisily saying things like “Quite extraordinary behaviour! Some people…Hmmmmph. Grrrr…” and shooting me looks of pure hatred over their shoulders.
I nearly cried. Then I got angry. Then I thought about letting it ruin my day. And then I realised it was an opportunity to practice how to manage my response to other people’s emotions. Thinking about it rationally, it occurred to me that their anger was probably about more than someone sitting down next to them in a cafe. I managed to pray for them, and I managed to put the incident out of my mind and get on with preparing for a talk I have to give in a few days time.
Before leaving, the lady came over to speak to me again. She told me her husband had just had brain surgery and it was their first trip out in public and they were both feeling very uncomfortable. I resolved to continue to learn not to take everything personally. In this case, there was something else going on. There usually is.