When I was a young child, I loved going for a pony ride. In those days, even big cities had “pony tracks” where kids could ride a pony a few laps around an oval track, and my parents took us to one on a regular basis. The ponies would line up at the rail at the end of the track, and we would go stand next to the pony we wanted to ride until the track manager lifted us up into the saddle. When everyone was ready, he would signal to the ponies and they’d all walk or trot around the track while he stood in the center, directing them. It was usually the highlight of my week.
My favorite pony was a sweet brown one named “Cricket,” and I always headed straight for him. But one day I was shocked to find myself being scooped up and plunked down on the pony next to Cricket. Before I knew what was happening, I was riding around the pony track on a strange pony while poor Cricket was still standing at the rail, riderless. It wasn’t long before I started crying, for myself because I wasn’t on my favorite pony, and for Cricket, because I was sure his feelings were terribly hurt by being left behind.
The man in the center ring asked why I was crying, but I didn’t answer him. Worried that the ponies were going too fast, he had them go slower and slower, but I just kept crying. I could tell he was getting frustrated with me, yet I just couldn’t manage to tell him what was wrong. I cried for the entire ride, and for most of the car ride home as well, but I never told anyone that I was upset simply because they had put me on the wrong pony.
That was a long time ago, but there have been many times in my life when I just couldn’t find the words to tell people what was bothering me, no matter how much I wanted to. Sometimes I didn’t even understand exactly why I was sad or upset, and other times I was embarrassed or worried that I’d hurt someone’s feelings. And I think this is a problem that most of us have now and then. How many times have you noticed someone who is obviously unhappy, but when you ask what’s wrong, they tell you they’re just fine?
The truth is that everyone faces challenges from time to time, and everyone is struggling with something almost all of the time. We can usually talk about those things with our friends and loved ones, but there are times when that struggle is something that we face alone, at least for a little while. But even when people don’t talk about what’s bothering them, their behavior almost always reflects it. Which is something we need to bear in mind when we’re dealing with people who act in ways we find baffling or annoying.
It’s so easy to get frustrated when people say and do things that make no sense to us, and it’s even easier to lash out at them with ridicule and condemnation. But I think we need to remember that at one time or another, we were all that little kid crying on a pony for reasons she couldn’t begin to explain. And all that kid really needs is a little patience and compassion…….