Sunday, June 2, 2013

Hope's Daughters

I have always had a very bad temper that I couldn't always control.  When I was young I would frequently get into arguments with my siblings or my parents, go up to my room and kick a hole in the drywall of the hall on the way.  When I did that my father would always install a new electrical outlet at that place.  He called them reminders. When there were maybe ten or twelve there along the wall, I got the point, and learned to control my temper.  I still lose it every now and then when I am dealing with my kids, who can be recalcitrant, or I get into an argument with someone, but it’s much better now.

I’m not proud of it, but not long ago I lost my temper the worst that I have in several years. I fell on the driveway and broke my phone.   There are a number of reasons that I have to always have a phone with me, so  I drove to the cell phone store to see what they could do. they couldn’t offer any help at all, so I was without a phone, which stressed me out.

When I get stressed I tend to shake and twitch a bit more than normal.  On that day I was very stressed and flapping around a bit like a seagull. I didn’t have any medicine with me so I just had to deal with it.  On the way home from the phone store I stopped at a little market to see if I could pick up some green peppers and tomatoes for something I was going to make for dinner. While I was in the store, I noticed that people were staring at me and that someone was following me around the produce aisle.  People stare at me all of time, move out of bus seats, and what not, so that didn’t bother me.  It did bother me that someone was following me.

The person that was following me was the shop manager.  He finally came up to me, grabbed my arm.  He said to me, “I don’t know if you are drunk or crazy but you have to go.” I said to him, “What do you mean? What did I do?” He just put my vegetables back into their bins and started leading me to the door. “You are scaring my customers. You have to go.”  After that he pretty much boosted me out of his store.  As you can imagine, I was hurt and furious.  I went and sat in my car trying to think of what I could do.

While I was there the rain started to fall.  Suddenly a woman of a certain age carrying some bags appeared at my window and started tapping it. I rolled the window down and said, “Yes, Ma'am, what can I do for you?”  She said, “I saw what happened.  My husband used to have the same problem.  I got these for you.”  With that she handed me a plastic bag of a half-dozen tomatoes.  I said thank you to her, then she ran to her car and left.

I sat in my car for few more minutes, steaming, and then I decided what I was going to do.  I got out in the drizzle and started hurling those tomatoes at the store windows with great elan.  When I had finished with my ammunition, I got back in my car and drove off.  While it felt good in the moment, as I went home I felt embarrassed, because I had yet again created another hole in the wall for an outlet.   

During the school year, on Sundays, I mentor young middle-school kids who are preparing for confirmation in our church. That Sunday, after the tomato incident, and after we had finished our lesson, I had them talk a little bit about anger and how you handle it, which I think was good for them and good for me.  On my way out of church, I ran into one of my pastors, John.  He asked me how I was doing. I told him about the tomato incident and how bad I felt.  He looked up at the ceiling, thought a minute, and then he said, “There is a quote from St. Augustine: ‘Hope has two beautiful daughters, one is anger and one is courage.’  Don’t beat yourself up.  Just think about that.”

I have ever since.  Despite what happened that day at the market, I think of Hope's daughters, and I choose Courage over Anger.  Courage will get you where you want to go; Anger is selfish and mean.