Several times I can recall where I have been talking ugly about someone when they were within the sound of my voice and I didn't know about their presence until later. One of those times was when I was an undergraduate at college. I was ripping on one of my professors, who, unbeknownst to me, was sitting on the other side of a room divider just 5 ft away. It only takes a few of these painful and embarrassing occurrences for one to learn to watch their tongue. However, given how I can sometimes behave, I guess that these experiences were not quite painful enough for me to stop the practice altogether, just to be more mindful of where I vent and spew. This just goes to show that, somehow, even after all of the years I have been kicking around on this rock, I am still very much a work in progress.
To wit, I was doing some gardening in my front yard the other day. I happened to be very near the street when the kids from the house directly across from mine came out into their front yard to play. This large, extended family has recently moved in and they spend a lot of time playing in their driveway. As kids tend to do, their play involved lots of screaming and yelling and hijinks. As my peaceful and serene environs quickly vanished, I found myself grumbling about the dang kids. I remember wishing that they would just go away. It was at this moment that one of the children, a small girl who couldn't have been much more than 5 or 6 years old, wandered up to the edge of her yard. She called out to me, "I like your yard very much, you do a good job of making it look nice." With that she wandered away to join the festivities with her family. I just sat there for a few moments feeling like a terrible neighbor. A grumbling, crotchety old man. However, I think that this experience has permanently changed how I view these kids, and that is a mark of progress.