I don’t think all of life’s less than pleasant experiences are meant to teach us something. – sometimes stupid things just happen and that’s all there is to it. But sometimes, those incidents really can be teachable moments. I have to be able to look past the offense first to see what kind of good can possibly come out of it, and for someone who tends toward taking things personally, this isn’t easy to do.
On Thursday, after dropping Millie off at preschool, the other girls went with me to two different grocery stores for their $10 off $50 Thursday promotions. I had my list, I had my coupons, and I was in a hurry as we weren’t done with school for the day. The first store we went to we encountered the Angry Chicken Lady. Here’s what happened:
This lady parked her cart right in front of the sale chicken and then walked away. The sale chicken was my destination in this particular section of the store, so I walked over and moved her cart a little bit to gain access. I didn’t realize she came back, though, and in the process of moving her cart, I evidently pushed her cart over her toe. I didn’t even realize it. I picked up some chicken, walked back to my cart, put it in and went back for more. She was blocking the path again, so again, I tried to move around her. When I did this, she blew up at me. In a huff she moved out of the way, raised her voice at me, and said, “If you want the chicken that badly, I’ll just move out of your way. It’s not like you didn’t just run over my toe while trying to get to the chicken!”
I was so surprised to hear this. I said, “Did I do that? I’m really sorry. I didn’t even know. Will you forgive me please? I didn’t mean to do that.” She ignored me and turned around back towards the chicken. In shock, I stepped back away from her and kept my girls away from her too. I explained to them what happened and how that woman was bitterly angry. I told them I did something to her I didn’t realize I’d done, but that once hearing I did it, I apologized to her, but she didn’t forgive me. We were all a bit in shock over what was happening and I almost cried right there in the store. The girls couldn’t believe the lady was so angry over something that was an honest mistake.
My interaction with that woman practically derailed my entire afternoon. She was all I could think about for the rest of the day, and I could only chalk it up to one of those dumb things that happen for no good reason.
The next day something happened in our family where one sister accidentally knocked a glass of water over on another sister’s desk. The offending sister didn’t realize she did it and the spill didn’t get cleaned up right away, so that water seeped onto some papers and magazines that were on the desk. When the owner of the desk saw what happened, she became very angry with the sister who did the spilling. No amount of explaining on my part could convince her that this was anything other than an outright purposeful action against her. The word accident was not even a consideration. The gray cloud parked itself in that upstairs bedroom for more than 30 minutes until I finally realized we were experiencing another round of the Angry Chicken Lady. I brought the girls together again and walked them back through our experience in the store the day before. I asked the angry sister if she remembered what happened there, if I’d realized what I’d done to the lady. She remembered. I asked her if she remembered that I apologized to the lady and what the lady’s response was. She remembered. I asked her if she thought maybe she was acting like the Angry Chicken Lady towards her little sister.
The light bulb came on. It lit slowly, but it did turn on. She wasn’t too keen on being named the Angry Chicken Lady, but once she recognized the parallel, it helped her see things more from her sister’s perspective. I was able to help her understand that if she couldn’t control her anger now while she was still so young, if she couldn’t forgive someone an offense so petty, she could very well grow up to be like the woman in the store who turned foul near the fowl.
For the past few days, Angry Chicken Lady has become a code phrase amongst us when someone is beginning to show their anger a little too easily. When someone says it, it usually does two things: 1) makes the gal who is turning into the Angry Chicken Lady stop to consider her behavior; and 2) makes all of us double over in laughter – a huge difference from my response to the Angry Chicken Lady on Thursday.
I’m still not happy the Angry Chicken Lady introduced herself to us on Thursday. But I’m glad for the opportunity to turn it into something of value in our home. And I’m hopeful that as the five of us continue to walk along this path together, God will continue to redeem the Angry Chicken Lady moments in our lives. And lesson learned: stay out of the way of other women perusing the sale chicken. Got it.