“There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.” 
― Ernest Hemingway

I was hiking with one of those crazy people you meet from time to time who happens to be an Iron man, 50 miles trail runner, dad, engineer and luckily, a friend of mine as well. Being interested myself in doing an Iron man I asked him about the costs of it and especially the cost of the bike, which I inferred must be extremely expensive, as well as all the other equipment you need to compete.

He bolted to me saying that he hated the snobbery and glamour around iron man. He told me that he delights himself specially when some aficionado bike snob brags with an air of superiority about the bike he uses for his races and how he pleasantly tells him that he uses just a regular cheap race bike, give some spice to the race.

He told me that you don’t need all these super expensive equipment compete, you certainly don’t need to finish first, you just have to prepare yourself, get the basic equipment and give it a go.

“A great man is always willing to be little.” 
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Later in the day, the chat with my friend reminded me of my aunt (rest in peace) and her lovely, delicious dinners.

You see, in Mexico, cleaning ladies and house personnel are not supposed to eat with the family, it’s just custom. I guess it’s just the same all over but not in my aunt’s house. She specifically told the cleaning lady and any person who happened to be in her house to sat down and eat with everyone else.

Being a little kid, that seemed extremely weird to me because in every other house I ate, no one sat to eat but the family, cleaning ladies or house personnel ate either earlier or later and didn’t interact with the family. In some cases, they were treated, sadly, as inferior.

Inviting someone to your table is non-small matter after all. It is personal shared time, and this is why I like so much the idea of inviting every guest to sit down. It gives every person on the table the opportunity to speak, to discuss and all of these in an environment of inclusion and togetherness.

Differences in opinion may rise, and this precisely is what was great about eating together, it gave everyone the opportunity to express and understand each other, whereas, in other situations, no opportunities for these are given. Uncomfortable conversations and situations happened obviously but this shouldn’t be a reason not to interact, in fact, the more uncomfortable situation we have, the better we do, you are not running away, you are facing reality. Marcus Aurelius had something about this:

“Begin each day by telling yourself: Today I shall be meeting with interference, ingratitude, insolence, disloyalty, ill-will, and selfishness – all of them due to the offenders’ ignorance of what is good or evil. But for my part I have long perceived the nature of good and its nobility, the nature of evil and its meanness, and also the nature of the culprit himself, who is my brother (not in the physical sense, but as a fellow creature similarly endowed with reason and a share of the divine); therefore none of those things can injure me, for nobody can implicate me in what is degrading. Neither can I be angry with my brother or fall foul of him; for he and I were born to work together, like a man’s two hands, feet or eyelids, or the upper and lower rows of his teeth. To obstruct each other is against Nature’s law – and what is irritation or aversion but a form of obstruction.” ― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Think about how you treat each person you encounter. It’s just obvious that you are not going to treat everyone the same, but we should definitely treat each other with at least respect and the presupposition that they count with reason and can as well be polite. This assumption is under control.

Now that I’m older, I admire my aunt greatly. A single act of inviting everyone to her table spoke greatly of her character, she was a great woman. Inviting people to her table was one small act amongst many in her life. How you do anything, you do everything.

In your life, where are you leaving people outside? Where are you avoiding the issues that need to be addressed? Where are you being an unhelpful and misunderstanding snob?

At the end of the day, we all are in this together, and just like living in a clean place feels better that living in a dirty one. Healthy relationships feel better than unhealthy ones. Sometimes, your house can be pretty messy and just so, relationships can as well be. To clean them you have to be willing to get your hands dirty and speak up from time to time, don’t let things pass. Remember.

“True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.” 
― Rick Warren

Want something else from Stoic Answers? Read: An antidote for the complaint.

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