What do you do when you have to deal with difficult people? Do you lash back at them? Do you loose your cool? Well, I used to be terrible at dealing with difficult people until I spent a Saturday afternoon the 3-year old son of my friends Beth and Robert.
Now, Jason (the 3-year old) is not your average kid, he apparently has a near photographic memory because he developed the uncanny ability to record everything I say, weed out the non-interesting stuff, and playback my most incriminating comments to his father—the Southern Baptist Minister.
On this particular Saturday, I was to baby-sit Jason. I’d spent the morning unpacking boxes and needed to take the empty boxes to the landfill. How I managed to coordinate ridding myself of boxes and spending time with Jason, I’ll never know. Fate I guess.
So, there we were on our mission to get rid of the empty boxes. I was driving the truck and Jason riding shotgun. I was careful to say very little and encouraged Jason to carry the conversation. As long as Jason speaks he cannot record, obviously multi-tasking skills come later in life.
Everything was going great until I looked in the rear view mirror as one of the boxes flew out of the truck and hit the windshield of the car behind me.
I pulled to the side of the road, but before I could get the door opened the lady from the car behind me was verbally attacking me. This lady screamed about my being a hazard to the highways and irresponsible, she also proceeded to call me everything except a child of God. I was powerless; there was nothing that I could say because the tape recorder was ready to grab every angry word I uttered. All I could do was nod and smile—not my usual response to this kind of abuse.
Finally the lady ran out of steam so I was able to apologize and let her know how grateful I was that she was not hurt. I wasn’t really grateful; I was angry and wanted to call her every name in the book. But I couldn’t, the little tape recorder was still in earshot—I didn’t dare say a thing.
So, biting my lip, I got back in the truck as Jason said, “That lady was mean!"
What was I going to say? What did I dare say?
Then, like hearing a voice from beyond I was given a response just short of genius, I said, “Well, she is probably just having a bad day, we’ll pray for her when we get home. "
What a perfect response. There was absolutely nothing that “Pastor Father" could use against me.
Even though my response to Jason was not sincere, I still had to wonder if little Jason taught me a lesson. Was I a better person because of this time I spent with him?
If I could just learn to keep my cool and only smile and apologize like I did for Jason’s sake (or my sake). I really wasn’t convinced I could pull this off because I was still getting madder and madder. What would I do if Jason sensed my insincerity and spilled the beans to his Dad? I’d probably end up being the topic of Sunday’s sermon—once again. Clearly I had to remain “on guard"; this could go badly at any moment.
Finally, we got to the landfill. Unloading the boxes gave me a few minutes away from Jason. I stomped around the truck and mumbled under my breath—all the while smiling and waving at Jason. I kept reminding myself I just had to “fake it" a little longer, once the boxes were unloaded I could return Jason to the Baptist’s and then I’d go and blow off some steam. I just had to continue the façade a little longer.
As I got back in the truck, Jason turned to me and said, “I prayed for that lady while you were gone. "
Now, didn’t I feel like the biggest heel? All the time I was filled with rage, and 3-year old Jason was praying his little heart out for someone he didn’t even know. I was humbled, and ashamed of myself all at the same time.
It took that little boy to teach me to control my anger. I guess from now on, I’d have to give credit to Jason for teaching me how to deal with difficult people.
I was secretly wondering if I’d ever be as big a man as this 3-year old when he turned to me and said quietly, “I prayed that lady was dead. "
Jason is my new best friend.
David Zack Holmes is an Inspirational/Humor Writer telling his tales with a southern flair. To read more features see: http://www.davidzackholmes.com