A story came my way that needs sharing. It’s about stress, being human, doing the right thing, and…poop. You know how I love to mix the serious with the hilarious!
One morning, a harried young woman named Carol was out in the dew-laden hours before dawn, walking Bruce, the family lab. This particular day, she also had a library book in her hand to return to the local branch a few blocks from her house. As so many of us do, she was multi-tasking well before the sun came up. She had already made school lunches complete with “love” notes tucked in the sandwich wrappers and had set the cereal and fruit out for the family breakfast.
This particular morning, she was more exhausted than usual because she had spent most of the night consoling her eight-year-old who had been having nightmares. Carol was also super stressed about her climbing-the-ladder career as a litigating attorney. Today was scheduled for opening arguments in a huge case. She had to be on point.
Bruce was definitely the only one wiggling with enthusiasm as the light of day began to peek through the trees lining her street.
A block or so before arriving at the library parking lot, Bruce smelled just the right tree and did his thing. After bagging the steaming pile, Carol went on to the library, opened the drive-through return slot, and tossed her book in. This detour had taken more time than her usual walk with Bruce, so she jogged even faster back.
Once home in her backyard, as she took Bruce off his leash, she suddenly realized the library book was still clenched in her other hand. What had she tossed into the slot at the library? Uh-oh.
Yep. The ugly, stinky truth. Carol realized what she had done. The library was three hours away from being open. No time to run back now to see if her arm was long enough to make the switch.
Through clenched teeth and a knot in her gut the size of Cincinnati, Carol, exhausted and stressed before the first “hello” of the day, alternated between hysteria—the bad, hyper-ventilating kind and the laugh-your-ass-off kind. As she dressed and woke the family, she felt tears of idiocy streaming down her cheeks. Facing herself in the mirror Carol looked at a very tired person having a thought walk about all the other times in her life when she was “too pooped to pop”. This, of course, took on new meaning as she realized the potential mess that pounds of returned books could cause as each one experienced a soft landing on top of a warm pile of Bruce-ness.
Here’s the kicker. Carol asked herself the million-dollar questions—ones of situational ethics and the fine-tuning of our moral compass we so often find ourselves asking:
“Who would ever know?”
“Why should I care?”
“How can I take care of this when I am already taking care of more than I bargained for?”
“Why don’t I just forget it and let them handle it?”
Whoever gathered the books from the return slot would be in for quite a surprise. Would they take this as some hideously incorrect political statement? What sentiment would be shared throughout the library that day and in the days to come as a result of this gross discovery?
Something told Carol that even if the baggie held together after the pounding it was sure to get that no one would find this funny in the least. What were the chances that anyone would imagine this morning’s scenario and be sympathetic to the perpetrator?
Would you agree it’s safe to say, that as a culture, we don’t automatically jump to the most positive interpretation of circumstances we don’t understand? Wouldn’t they instead interpret it as the action of a very sick person and feel hated, hateful, and disgusted every time they thought of it afterward?
Maybe for years to come?
After considering whether or not she could just dismiss this and carry on with her day, Carol determined that her own self-esteem would suffer if she did not clean this mess up—in several ways. Taking responsibility was simply the right thing to do.
The right thing to do.
The first place to start was by reframing her Drano-laden self-talk into humor and compassion for herself. She also decided to turn it into a lesson in forgiveness and compassion for her kids by sharing what she had done with them as they ate breakfast.
The message was loud and clear:
Everyone makes mistakes. Own yours.
Never let others suffer when you can do something to make things right.
Clean up whatever mess you have made.
Say you are sorry. Then move on.
Realize that being human is just knee-slappingly funny sometimes.
You know it’s true. Moments like these top the marquee at family reunions for years to come.
Even Bruce howled—with laughter.
Even though she had a jam-packed day in the courtroom, Carol then set her cell phone for the time the library would open. She wanted to call as a pre-emptive strike, alerting the staff about the gooshy pile within the pile.
As she explained what had happened to the real live person who answered the phone, there was nothing but silence. After nearly a full minute of non-response to her “Hello, is anybody there?” she heard...
gales of laughter.
The person on the other end turned away to share the morning’s “gift” with her co-workers—more gales of laughter. Carol was even thanked for “Making our day!”
The poopie pile was retrieved, smushed but not leaking. Hallelujah. The day was saved, the book slot unblemished, ready to receive once more.
Here’s what I know for sure.
Every experience, no matter how ridiculous
it seems at the time, is a renewed chance for choices.
I can choose to generate love, compassion, and understanding for myself and everyone else.
I can commit to finding the opportunity for the blessing in everything that comes my way.
I can do the right thing—or not.
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