Be thankful for the turkeys in your life

Sometimes holidays create sticky problems. My family is scattered out of state, so good people take pity on me and invite me to celebrate holiday events with them. It’s never an easy choice because if I go to one friend or neighbor’s home instead of another’s, I’ll catch hell from the other.

Such was the case when Maria, the otherwise lovely grocery clerk who chats it up with me, found out I had spent Thanksgiving dinner over at Emily’s place instead of hers. Everyone gossips around here, so nothing is sacred or secret.

On the day after Thanksgiving when I went in for some coffee creamer, Maria was up on a ladder stocking shelves. I didn’t see her but apparently she saw me because, without missing a beat, she said, “So. I’m chopped liver??”

To be honest, I’m not good at turning down invitations. Usually I say something like, “Maybe next time,” and leave it at that. That makes them think I’m staying home.

But Maria, who’s always little miss sunshine, didn’t so much as glance at me as she shoved cereal boxes up on the shelf. “You missed out on a good time, you know. Too bad. Hope you didn’t get Salmonella at Emily’s.” I was stumped by her words, never seen her at all prickly before, so I didn’t quite know how to respond.

“What…the cat got your tongue?” she said loudly. Confused by this new version of Maria, I held my tongue. Emily is getting on in years and may be old enough to be Maria’s grandmother, so why is Maria behaving this way? I had to know, but I wasn’t about to find out any time soon. Still, out of courtesy, I told her Emily’s 12-year-old cat had just been diagnosed with inoperable cancer and, with Emily being in the dumps, I felt it was only right to give her some company. Maria was unmoved, letting out nothing more that a timid harrumph.

Now what to do? My personal experience tells me that Maria’s screwball behavior is a glaring sign of some tangled thinking going on in her head. So, as much as I didn’t like Maria’s ’tude, she’d gone off the rails for some reason, and I didn’t want to leave the store with her mad at me. That’s why I asked her to step down from the ladder which prompted her to twist around, arms folded across her chest, and glare down at me. “I can hear you good enough from up here!” Obviously she wasn’t softening.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I’m very, very sorry.” She rolled her eyes. I told her if the shoe were on the other foot, she’d be just as curious as to what she’d done wrong. Still, I emphasized I was sorry anyhow and asked how I can make it up to her. After a beat, she curled her lip with a huff and placed her hands on her hips, “Men! You’re all alike. God made you all impossible!” But she began to thaw.

This story continues, but I’ll save the rest for my next post. In the meantime, the moral of this story so far is you can’t figure people out sometimes no matter how much you’d like to. They carry baggage no one’s ever gonna get a peek at. They hurt for reasons unknown—they may not even know. But it’s no one’s job to punish them for being insensitive or cross. It’s no one’s business to fully understand them either, not unless they’re paying you to be their shrink.

Instead, we can be charitable to others, despite their rough edges. We can move beyond their lapses in kindness. We can forgive their insensitivities. We can overlook their incapacity to love adequately. And, like whipped topping on pie, we can give them a nice dollop of our truest sweetness which you may have to pull up from your heart. Maybe enough’s not happened to them to crack their heart fully open.

So don’t drive yourself nuts expecting someone else’s heart to be shiny and bright like yours—especially around the holidays. Be thankful yours is big, is open, is kind, is giving. Let that be enough, or at least act as if. No one needs grief. No one is perfect. Including me.

Be sure to stay tuned for the continuation of today’s lesson coming up soon!

Present Valley

Ohhh how timely. Thank you.

Because of all the rough edges I’ve been around lately my shiny-ness was growing dim and my heart hurting.

My natural response is to pull back in self- protection. I’ll continue to pray to keep my heart open anyway and give the dollop of kindness.

I appreciate your reminder we are all imperfect and I can forgive myself and others for that.

Looking forward to the next lesson.

Wilsons Grave

It's okay to protect yourself. That's our natural instinct. Personally i'm surely no stranger to gut reactions and getting my back up, even wanting to retaliate sometimes, but that's not who I want to be. I'm crystal clear about that. I'm not looking to fight or get even. That's where our choice lies. It's like a game for me, whoever can be the bigger person wins the game. Thanks for your comment. Means a lot that it was timely for you.

Slipstream

It's not difficult to ruffle feathers these days. Everyone seems to be on edge; waiting for the other shoe to drop. We're all ready for a dollop of sweetness and kindness and giving it is just as rewarding as getting it. I'll watch for your next post. Thanks!

Wilsons Grave

These are rough times for lots of folks. We need to cut people some slack not do the opposite. I think we'll all sleep better with ourselves at night. Thanks for reading my stuff and commenting. I'm going to tell the rest of the story real soon.

Evangel

It's a touchy time of year for sure, especially with all the stress. Keeping it together is challenging for anyone, but for someone who's lonely it's tougher.

I admire how you handled the situation with an apology despite doing nothing wrong and asking how you can make it up to her. You're a gentleman and a skillful diplomat. I'm looking forward to what happens next in episode 2.

Wilsons Grave

Thanks for that. I think we're all gonna be lonely sometime. I've been there, so I want to ease those feelings for others who find themselves in that boat. No point in jumping all over someone for getting out of line when they're normally nice.

Sanatana

Maria may have hurts, but that doesn't excuse her behavior. You're a grown adult and should be able to accept any invitation you choose without having to justify it, with a sick cat or otherwise.

It seems people get offended very easily nowadays. But that's about them.

You were very kind to Maria despite her unnecessary negative attitude. All she would have needed to say is, "I missed you at Thanksgiving. Maybe next year."

Situations don't create people, they reveal them.

As I said, adults should be able to make choices without having to be judged and criticized because the other person didn't get their way.

If the shoe had been on the other foot, I wonder how Emily would have reacted.

Wilsons Grave

That's all true. I like your statement--situations don't create people, they reveal them. Should be a bumpersticker! Thanks for sharing that.

Well Street

Understanding that Maria's surface-level behavior was likely less about you but something more deep-seated, along with your sturdy sense of self, served you well in the grocery store.

Kudos to you for not putting up defensive walls and choosing to remain open-hearted and curious.

Wilsons Grave

Life goes much easier for me since I learned how to put myself in another person's place. Sometimes it's a feeling, sometimes patience, sometimes remembering we're all fragile and vulnerable, it all adds up to letting them be them without judgement unless they cross a line. Thanks for your nice comment.

Sanatana

It seems you've mastered a beautiful virtue. Good for you!

Faithville

What an excellent reminder, thank you! ♥️