Loving Cranky People

Mehhrrr… Mehhrrr…. is my favorite line from the children’s book Crankenstein. A story about a young boy who sees the glass half empty.

Have you ever had a day when all you could say was “Mehhrrr” in response to the trouble that comes your way.

Let’s face it, we all have cranky days sometimes.  Those days when everything seems to go wrong.  Like a few weeks ago… when I was up all night with a teething toddler and then tried to have a conference call when he finally took a nap.  Of course during the call, my 4 year old decided to intentionally spill his smoothie all over the deck and drive his trucks through it.  In retrospect, I can laugh about it, but in the moment life can just be overwhelming.

Maybe some of you… (like me)…. have cranky days more than others.    I have found that during these tough times, just a positive text from a friend or an unexpected phone call has such an positive effect on my mood.  It like the saying from Proverbs; “kind words are like honey–sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.”

But isn’t it strange that while we appreciate kindness when we are going through a tough time, when we get the opportunity to return the favor,  sometimes we try to run as fast as we can.

I admit that sometimes I feel so overwhelmed by my own life that I don’t take the time for others.

But occasionally, I get it right.

A few years ago I had to go to physical therapy for a minor back injury.  The receptionist at the therapy office was initially very cranky to me.  Being a counselor, I did a little self talk to reassure myself that she wasn’t mad at me.  I mean … how could she be, she didn’t know me personally.  So I decided that despite her negative attitude, I would be overly pleasant to her.

As the weeks went on, I began to notice that the receptionist had lost her hair and was wearing a bandana.  It became clear to me that the source of her grumpiness was not just a “bad day” but a legitimate medical condition.

Through the remaining weeks at therapy I tried to go out of my way to be kind to her during our brief interactions.  At the conclusion of my therapy her demeanor never soften toward me.  It led me to wonder whether my actions made any difference.

Well, ironically, a few months later my mother went to therapy at the same office.  Upon meeting my mother, the receptionist commented,”Oh your daughter is so sweet.”  It made me smile to think that maybe in some small way I brightened her day.

The experience reminded me of one of my mother’s famous saying.  One that I have used and explained over and over again to my students.

“Hurting people, hurt people.”

Happy people.. don’t usually go out of their way to hurt other people. But sometimes when people are going through something hard, they hurt others.   Sometimes, even those closest to them.

It’s not easy to be kind to grumpy people.  It is easier to walk away and mind your own business. But the personal reward for sacrificing your time is significant.

So maybe the next time you run into a cranky person, consider cheering them up or even just listening to them instead of “giving them space”.

I certainly don’t always get it right, but I think the risk is worth it.



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