The Laundry Basket

A while back I read some tips on how to get along with people:

  1. Speak cheerfully.
  2. Smile.
  3. Address people by name.
  4. Be friendly and helpful.
  5. Communicate openly.
  6. Be concerned about others.
  7. Be generous with praise, encouragement, and appreciation.
  8. Be genuinely interested in the feelings of others.
  9. Avoid arguments.
  10. Be helpful.

These are great tips, I thought, and I resolved to try to put them into practice in my daily life. Little did I know that an opportunity to do so would come along the very next day—but not exactly as I had expected.

My wife got annoyed with me for not helping her carry the laundry basket up to the roof. In our house, there are six flights of stairs to go up before reaching the top, so it is quite a strenuous task to carry up a basket full of wet laundry to hang.

I tried to explain that I would have been glad to carry it if she’d asked, but she seemed to be convinced I was avoiding the job on purpose. How unfair! I was upset, and as hard as I tried, the only tip for getting along that I could remember right then was #9, “Avoid arguments”—but it was already too late for that one.

I remembered that when Julius Caesar was angry, he mentally repeated the entire alphabet before speaking, but I was going to need more than 26 letters to keep me from doing or saying something rash. Then I remembered the poem, “Let it Pass.”

After a while, our tempers calmed down, and we made up. I apologized to my wife with a gift and a kiss, and somehow, the laundry basket incident quickly seemed insignificant. Now that the issue was brought to light, though, come next laundry day, you bet I’ll be sure to practice Tip #10—“Be helpful.”

Let It Pass

Truly great folks never stoop
To answer petty things;
The unkind word, the bitter cut
That rankles deep and stings.
They are too big to notice them,
They simply pass them by,
And even with a smile sometimes
Or twinkle in the eye.
For they have found that after all
’Twas better in the end
To meet it with a smile, and then,
Just let it pass, my friend.
—Virginia Brandt Berg (1886–1968)