It’s been very hot and humid here for the past few days, and I don’t seem to be coping with it very well. Part of the problem is that I walk dogs at a local animal shelter, which means that I’m outside a lot, no matter what the weather. (The fact that I’m no longer a “spring chicken” probably also has something to do with it, but I prefer not to think about that.) The upshot is that by the time I was done with my walking shift yesterday morning, I was hot, tired, and and sore. All I wanted to do was go home, take a cool shower, and lie down.
Then I discovered that there were some dogs in another part of the shelter still waiting to be walked, and that I was the only person still around to walk them. I’d like to say that I accepted the situation and did my duty cheerfully, but I did not. I was angry, because now I was faced with two unpleasant choices: either stay and walk some more dogs, or go home, knowing those dogs wouldn’t get walked that morning. And like most angry people, I immediately looked for someone to blame: Why hadn’t someone else walked those dogs? Why had they “saved them” for me to take care of? Obviously, someone wasn’t doing their job, or so I told myself.
Luckily, I shared my frustrations with a staff person I trust, because venting sometimes helps. She listened calmly to my rant, and then gently pointed out that sometimes there just aren’t enough people to get everything done, no matter how hard they try. No one had “saved” any dogs for me to walk, they just hadn’t been able to get to them all. Everyone, she reminded me, was just doing the best they could.
It took me a few minutes to stop feeling sorry for myself and to realize the truth in what she said. It took a few more minutes to actually be grateful for her honesty, because it was something I needed to hear. When times are hard, it’s only natural for us to react with disappointment and anger, and to look for someone to blame for all our troubles. But doing so doesn’t help anyone or anything.
I think it’s especially good for us to remember that now, because in these crazy and turbulent times we’re all struggling, one way or another. And the last thing struggling people need is someone lashing out at them in anger. What struggling people need, which means what all of us need, is a little bit of patience, kindness, and acceptance, I think.
Or at least that’s what I needed yesterday when I complained to that staff person. She could have taken my rant personally and reacted in anger, but she didn’t. Her calm and reasoned response was a gift to me, because it helped me calm down and look at the situation much more rationally. And you know what? I did stay and walk those dogs, and while I was doing so, someone else came along to help. I may have been even more tired by the time I finally got home, but I wasn’t angry anymore. Instead, all I felt was gratitude……