What’s your choice?

In every moment, there is a choice.

To help — or to harm.

To be kind — or be cruel.

To make someone’s day better — or worse.

No, the world is not black & white. Yes, there is nuance and sometimes, ethical dilemmas.

But ultimately, every word you write, everything you say, and every action you take comes down to a simple choice:

“Am I going to be a respectful, kind and decent human being… or not?”

We face this choice in one million ways, every day.

Recently, I made the wrong choice — and I felt the sting of shame.

I was on the phone with a customer service representative from a taxi company.

I was waiting in the rain — damp and grouchy. The cab I had ordered was forty minutes late.

The woman on the other end of the line told me she was sorry. There had been some kind of glitch in the booking system. She dispatched another cab to pick me up, but it was going to be another thirty minute wait.

“I’m so sorry,” she apologized. “We’re incredibly busy because of the bad weather.”

I felt my irritation rising. It was dark. I was wet. I had a salad at home that I wanted to eat — and lots of work to be finished.

I made my choice.

I snarled at her, complained, used a cruel tone of voice, and made sure she understood the depths of my annoyance.

She apologized again. It wasn’t enough.

I kept going… until, about sixty seconds into my tirade, I heard myself speaking. Almost as if I was listening to somebody else. I heard myself — and instantly realized my mistake.

I was using my words to ruin this woman’s day.

I was using my words to harm, to hurt, to shame.

I could have made a different choice.

I could have been polite, civilized and charming.

I could have been the kindest person she’d spoken to all day long, instead of the most unpleasant.

We could have reached the exact same conclusion — a new cab on the way — but with a radically different kind of experience, for both of us.

Is snarling at a customer service representative the “worst” thing you can do, as a human being? No, it’s not.

But choices are choices.

And choices add up.

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” –Leo F. Buscaglia

Don’t underestimate the impact of your choices — positive and negative, big and small.

With one cruel look, you can ruin someone’s day.

With one kind word, you can turn a life around.

What’s your choice, today?