Tuesday, November 8, 2011

What just happened here?

Yesterday I  had a day of opposites that really made me think. I got to work to find a card on the counter for me from a sweet family that is moving away after 8 years in Raymond. They wanted to thank me for storytime at the library and let me know they would miss it. There was a piece of artwork from their one of their five sons enclosed for me. Kind of hard not to get a little choked up about that kind of thing. Because no matter how much I tell myself it's worth it, there are times I wonder if anyone really cares that much whether the craft is cute and easy or the books fun and educational. I try pretty hard, and keeping all the names straight can be a challenge, but that little boy is the fourth in that family to come through storytime with me. His younger brother now comes too. I will really miss them even though there are 13+ other faces to keep track of at present. It made the day just a little sunnier. I wanted to be a little nicer and more patient with the customers and my co-workers.

At the end of my work day, there was a wrinkle in paradise. A frantic, flustered woman attempted to upload pictures to the website from home only to have her children exit her window when it was nearly done. She didn't know how to compress the files into a zip file to e-mail to me and had to settle for putting them in a flash drive and rushing to the store. She arrived at 5:59 and we close at 6:00. I was already shutting down the equipment and had to exit the process while she sobbed to the other staff that she had to have the pictures tonight. She promised they would be done. There was absolutely no way they could wait. And probably because of my earlier warm fuzzies I took her USB, plugged them in and printed them anyway. But I had to ask myself the unavoidable. Was it really that important? Surely no one would die if the pictures waited till morning. She had yelled at her children, probably cried herself silly, made a handful of people late going home to their own families, and the recipients of her super human effort would never comprehend what she had gone through to keep that promise. It just seemed so pointless. I don't think I would have done it. I would have phoned the people in need of the photos and told them they'd have to be happy with a slight delay. But I remembered being an intense young mom who would stay up until three a.m. painting backdrops for a church program that no one would ever appreciate adequately. Or trying to make costumes for children to wear for an hour at Halloween and then discard the minute they got home to upend their candy stash all over the floor. When did I learn to back off? I used to wish I could do it and suddenly I find that I can sometimes. Is it age? Fatigue? Maturity? I have no idea. I just know that I would never do to someone else what happened to me last night. And I suspect I wouldn't have done it then either. I've never had that kind of confidence that my demands are justified to that extent. Probably not a bad thing. It's why I don't get snarky waiting in line in the grocery store if I can help it, or rip someone's head off for making a mistake. I can't deal with the guilt or the stress it would create.

We manufacture so much of our stress with little justification. And what we forget is that it's rarely just us that suffers for it. We get irritable with total strangers. We snap at our children. We slam things, break things, mess up what we're trying to do, and it doesn't usually change the outcome. If anything it usually cements the catastrophe for us. I suppose it will make me think a little harder for a while about being busy without cause. I will ask myself if it's really necessary and if there's a potential for collateral damage if I give in to urgency. And I will relish my time tomorrow reading to pre-schoolers because I know that it's much more important than whatever else I could dream up for that time slot. And that's a blessing.

1 comment: