On a recent trip to Washington, DC, my wife and I were out walking around the Mall. We were heading west and crossing 14th street moving toward the Washington Memorial. To our right and slightly down the hill on the other side of the street was the major construction site where the new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture is being built.
There were at least three giant cranes working on the site, lifting and moving large pieces of steel and other heavy items into place. We used the crosswalk to cross the road. There was a woman out for a run who was crossing at the same time. As we approached the other side of the street, a construction worker who stood under the rear of one of the cranes, was directing us away and around the crane. The runner was immediately incensed and rudely said, “If you didn’t want us in this area you should have fenced it off!”
The way my wife saw it was that the construction company wanted to inconvenience people as little as possible. Only when the crane swung around so the rear hovered over the sidewalk in that spot did pedestrians really need to move out of the way. She felt that the construction worker was providing a service and looking out for us. The runner was ticked off.
The difference between the two positions is a matter of whether a person is focused only on himself or herself or whether they consider other people, their mission and the challenges they face in a day. It was almost comical to watch and listen to the runner sound like an insensitive spoiled brat. “The world rotates around me” attitude that she displayed made me realize how often it shows up and why people lack accountability in their life. Too many people are solely focused on their world, their needs and their specific situation. When we start focusing on what is going on in the lives of the people around us we start to appreciate them more and serve them at a higher level.
Only when we value all people, have empathy for their specific situation and truly care about their wellbeing and success can we approach a time where we will be accountable to all of the people around us and work to create a more accountable life, workplace and world.