Of course we knew there would be challenges getting back home when we left at the exact same moment as thousands of others (right after the finale to the 17 minute spectacular). We decided to drive this time - two years ago we took the metro and we didn't feel like being crammed with strollers onto a moving human sardine can this time around.
We parked in the garage of a hotel (in L'Enfant Plaza for those of you local or familiar with DC). For those of us with strollers (and sleeping babes) the easiest way down three levels to our waiting car was the (very slow) single elevator in the lobby. So you can imagine this was a bottleneck in the human flow. We got in line with others, some holding tired children and some, like us, pushing strollers. There were quite a few people waiting in front of us that did not appear to "need" the elevator and this annoyed us - I would have used the stairs if we could have. (It didn't take me long to realize that I should give these people the benefit of the doubt - maybe they did need the elevator in a way that wasn't obvious.)
But something happened shortly that was more than annoying. A group of young men came up and stood right next to the elevator - one of them mentioned "rushing" the doors when they opened. We watched them suspiciously. I tried loudly mentioning that there were stairs. A couple of them left but when the doors opened two or three of them pushed their way towards the elevator - getting in the way of those trying to get off (basic elevator etiquette - if you're older than 5 anyway - this shouldn't be an issue!). At this point Mike was loudly yelling, "Hey! Hey!" and some other things - nothing mean or obscene - just, "Come on guys!" He also appealed to the doorman of the hotel, who kind of just smiled at him.
The people at the front of the line didn't even want to get on the elevator with these guys, they were so disgusted.
But what caught my attention was my own reaction. I was surprised how quickly my emotions moved into the "violent" range. I wanted someone to stiff arm those thugs! I wanted to get up and stop them myself. I was so angry! I mean what they did was just plain WRONG.
And I had to call myself out. Yes, they shouldn't have done what they did - but how awful on the scale of awful was it really? And wondering who raised these inconsiderate human specimens wasn't really fair either - maybe someone really wonderful raised them and would be appalled by their behavior. Maybe these guys were egging each other on and doing things that they won't be proud of later.
Or maybe they really did have a rougher life than I could possibly imagine - such a life that would cause them to act in a way I would never consider.
I thought of the great leaders who I admire - Martin Luther King Jr and Gandhi jump immediately to mind - and how they endured hardship and injustices I cannot even comprehend, all the while sticking to their nonviolent guns (<-- haha - ironic, right??).
I could be ashamed of myself for abandoning my Peaceful Ideals so easily. But I didn't really feel ashamed. I felt human. After all I didn't actually act on my violent feelings or thoughts (which I'm willing to bet even those great men had!) And I was very quick to notice my own thought patterns, alter them, and even laugh at myself. Making this shift is not as hard as it seems. It mostly takes awareness and creativity. I find cruelty and violence rigid and impulsive - but Love and Compassion see things in new and different ways. Even if our violent tendencies surge within us we can train ourselves to wait them out. We can let time be our friend and let the anger fade. And then we can cultivate other skills to allows kindness to grow and thrive.
In the end, we didn't let this small occurrence ruin our night - after all we took a risk by deciding to brave the crowds. I know I'm not Gandhi by any stretch of the imagination - I still have lots of room to grow. And I'm ok with that. If someone asked me if the 17 minutes of fireworks were worth the hour and a half it took to get home, I'd still reply with a definitive - yes!