I was driving through a roundabout in San Jose, Costa Rica several months ago when I learned firsthand the value Costa Rican people place on kindness and patience.
Because I'm American, I am confused by traffic patterns common to the rest of the world. In other words, I use roundabouts exactly like I do the metric system.
I guess a lot.
Sam was shouting "right right right right," over the sound of squealing tires, as I cut hard across three lanes of traffic, nearly toppling a guy on a blue scooter. I knew it was the wrong thing to do, but my other five options leading us into mysterious neighborhoods, seemed way worse.
And do you know what the Tico motorists in the roundabout did?
THEY APPLIED THEIR BRAKES and gave me a moment to correct my mistake. Then - get this - they went on with their lives. No horns. No middle fingers. No Nascar peel outs.
Pura Vida in Costa Rica roughly translates to "good life." It's used as thank you, you're welcome. Welcome. Nice one. Well done. Lots of things. It's a just a groovy thing to say, like Azafady in Malagasy.
If America had a phrase right now, I wonder what would it be?
Wait, don't answer that.
After visiting my sister in Nice, France a few weeks ago, my flight back to Geneva was delayed. I discovered this only because the people who had lined up to board, quietly sat back down. There was no announcement explaining the situation and nobody yelling about connections either.
I eventually got curious, so I sidled up to the counter and said in my super cool French...
"Il y a un problème avec l'avion?"
"Oui," the agent said, adding nothing but a withering gaze, clearly daring me to complain about the situation. Did he do that because I'm American or just because he's French?
I don't know, but as long as I'm stereotyping everybody, let's run with it.
America has countless things to be grateful for, but gosh we act like spoiled children a lot. I really do wonder when we came to expect freedom from all inconvenience and license to express outrage over it?
I mean, we're good at complaining, it's become our national M.O. We even rock non-verbal complaining. The grocery checker messes something up and the woman at her counter looks back at me and rolls her eyes.
That happened to me yesterday and ruh-roh that woman had a cross around her neck.
I bring it up because complaining is a heart problem that Jesus has been eyeballing me over a bunch lately and I'm writing this so you can hold me accountable. (He's hit me up on gossip too, but that's another post.)
Jesus keeps reminding me that my mouth speaks what my heart is full of, so if I tear a gate agent's head off over a mechanical, or trash talk a tourist for creating 2.3 second delay in my commute, my heart is sick.
You guys listen, the power of life and death is in our tongues, we can speak life over people or we can speak death. It's a choice. Plus, people don't care what you wear around your neck unless you contradict its message with your behavior - then they care a lot. They attach a whole lot of meaning to that.
Yes, kindness, patience and good manners are usually inconvenient but they're also delightful and shocking - it's one of a thousand reasons Costa Rica is awesome.
Can be a little more like Costa Rica today? Cultivate a little more Pura Vida at home? Be a little better ambassadors for the King we represent too?
I'm down. Are you?