A dear friend of mine recently told a story about her dad - an elderly man we'll call Charlie. Charlie has brain injuries, and dementia - a combination which could mean many things , but in his case, it's left him sweet & stubborn. He's in a long-term care home, as his needs are too high for my friend, or any one person, to manage on her own. The stories she tells us about Charlie are always full of quirky charm, and love for her father. He mixes his words a lot, but prays with fervency; he even wished the Lord a Happy New Year. A few autumns ago, he filled his room up with leaves (boxes and drawers and corners), because he was so excited about each and every one. This time, though, for this story, there is trouble in my friend's voice. "He's taking too many muffins," she says. "The staff are concerned."
Every morning with his coffee, Charlie likes a bran muffin. Not just a bran muffin. Eight. Eight or more. All of the muffins from the small cafe basket usually end up on Charlie's table. He pays for them with his own money, mind you, and because Charlie likes to share he usually offers some of the muffins to whomever might be standing around. But, bran muffins are his favorite, so you wouldn't expect him to part with too many, or pass over any that might be left available for purchase.
"He's buying us out!" The staff are upset with him. They try every morning to reason with Charlie. They tell him how unacceptable it is for him to buy all of the muffins. They try to convince him to only buy one, or at least, less than eight. They get angry.When that doesn't work, they phone my friend. "You must do something about your dad," they say, frustration lingering. "What he's doing is unreasonable."
And isn't this the way.
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How often do the smallest actions of others become our martyr's cause? There needs to be room in our hearts for those who act how we wouldn't, those who aren't careful enough, or too careful, and those who don't stay inside the same lines we do. But often, there's not room at all, is there? We react with a scoff, puff our chests, force our linear hand. We confuse the simple, and the good, with bad behavior*. We, like one friend said, make "mountains out of molehills, or, rather, out of muffins."
For Charlie, the story continues. The staff have been convinced to tolerate his high-count-purchasing, "for now." So, he will keep his routine. He'll delight in the simple things, and cause grief to tense onlookers by doing so.
Next time you're the onlooker, take pause and consider: am I upset about something that matters? Think of Charlie. Think of how much joy it brings a man to have his favorite food on a plate. See if you can't find something simple to delight over, too. I bet your anger would subside a little; I bet your mountain of stress might crumble into something a little smaller, a little more manageable. I bet you, too, will see you were arguing over muffins.
*A huge thank you to my friend for letting me tell this story. Her patient observations (in this case: confusing the simple & the good), her kind heart, and her contagious outlook on life, inspire me to observe & live in the same ways.