Like it was yesterday.
I was 12 years old and in the car riding shot gun with my older brother, Jack, who was home from college. I felt pretty cool. I’m the youngest of my sibs and there were always older cousins around, so finding myself in the front passenger seat was rare. AND with my brother, who I greatly admired, driving…just the two of us? Yep, everything was good.
I was singing with the radio, I was singing at the top of my lungs! I knew all the words of the song that was playing by heart! At one point in the song, I stopped to make a smart aleck comment about Samantha Sang, the vocal artist with whom I had been singing. It was a crack about the song…it was a grown up comment…it was a snap judgment about the singer…it was harsh…I’m sure it had an interesting, extra bite because it came out of a 12 year old. Jack didn’t immediately react. After a few seconds, with the snark hanging in the air, he leaned forward, turned the radio down and said, “I’ve been wanting to talk to you about something.”
He said, “Pat, you are so so smart. Incredibly quick witted…” he half chuckled. “Sometimes I am amazed by how you think and the way you put your thoughts together, so quick and FUNNY! I don’t know where you got that!” I smiled and thanked him for the compliment. He went on, “Well, you’re welcome and I truly mean it. I want you to think about something else, though. Sometimes being quick-witted…being the first to comment…especially if you are going for a laugh…isn’t the best way through relationships. If you are not careful, your words will shut people down. Of course, I want people to know that you are smart and funny and that you are a good thinker but I really want people to know that you are a nice girl and that you are a kind person! I love you a lot and I want people to know who you are, see that you’re a good person and how much you care about people.” I was quiet, thinking about his gentle rebuke. Then he said, “It’s not always good to be quick witted…sometimes it’s best to be slow…slow to react…make room for other people…you should try it. I try to pride myself in being slow.”
Great advice. One of the very-most meaningful things that has EVER been said to me. It’s been a guiding principle in my life. I hear that conversation in my head often. I have coached myself through many discussions, many discourses, debates and conflicts with this, “Be slow. I’m slow. Breathe and be slow.”
Sure, he looks wise but back then, he was just a 20 year old home from college! I’m thankful for people in my life who were looking out for me. I’m thankful that teachable moments were seized upon on the regular and that my brother chose to be an active part of my formation as a young person. I’m thankful that he cared enough about me not to let me go out into the world without hearing the wisdom of being slow.