Sweating the Small Stuff

Last Wednesday was a typical Wednesday. I get up at around 5, take a shower, eat some breakfast and catch the shuttle that takes me to Boston so I can get to school at around 7.

When I get to the shuttle stop, the shuttle bus I usually get on is full and pulling out so I have to resort to taking the shuttle van and I manage to get one of the last few seats. There are other people standing out in the cold who unfortunately were not able to get on. The driver of the van is not one I’ve met before and he pages his dispatch asking if there are any other shuttles coming. The guy sitting shotgun tells him that the next one isn’t for another 30 minutes and so the driver politely rolls down the window and informs the people outside that the next one isn’t coming for a little while and he apologizes. As people keep walking up to the stop, he feels the need to inform each and every one of them that his van is full, but that the next shuttle will arrive shortly.

The designated departure time had come and gone by now, not by much, but enough to make the passengers of the van feels uneasy that they were going to be a few minutes late to whatever job they have in the city. I found myself partaking in their irritability, muttering under my breath some dismay or other. Eventually he drives on, and gets on the expressway which takes us across a bridge into Boston, but to everyone’s continued annoyance, the driver is driving the speed limit. To those unfamiliar with Massachusetts driving, if you’re going the speed limit, you’re going too slow. The speed limit is more or less the suggested speed in case of bad weather or if you’re rubbernecking at a car on the shoulder. Most cars are going 10 to 15 MPH faster than the speed limit, as is the norm, but not our driver.

We arrive at downtown Boston about 8 minutes later than usual and lo and behold, the train most of us catch in downtown Boston is broken down due to weather conditions. Man was I irate. I felt cheated, like the world owed me something or like I was being taken advantage of. I then walked to school in 5 degree weather, uphill, in the snow, both ways, cursing my luck.

Since then I’ve had some time to reflect on how upset I was at things I had no control over for no particular reason. I remembered a chat I had with a camper a couple of years ago when I worked as a camp counselor. This camper, Bryce, was autistic and had a lot of trouble fitting in with the other kids so he spent a lot of time by himself. I made it my point to spend as much time with Bryce as I could, since he had been my camper the previous year. His counselor that year sought me out one day and asked me to have a talk with Bryce. Bryce didn’t want to leave his cabin because he felt inadequate. He felt like the other kids were better than him in some way and that he wasn’t as capable as the other kids. Our conversation went something like this:

“Why don’t you want to come outside Bryce, what’s the matter?”

“I don’t deserve to go outside. All the other kids have friends and have fun. I don’t have friends so I deserve to stay in here and be sorry for myself.”

“I’m your friend, don’t you want to come outside with me and have fun?”

“You have to be my friend, it’s your job, no one is my friend because they want to.”

“That’s not true, I’m not your counselor this year, I want to be your friend.”

“You’re just saying that so I don’t stay in my cabin, I don’t deserve to go outside, all the other kids can do so much more than me, they deserve to go outside.”

“Bryce do you how to dress yourself?”

“Yes.”

“Do you know how to take a shower”

“Yes.”

“Can you climb the rock wall”

“Yes”

“Bryce do you know Aaron? The kid with Down Syndrome in my cabin?”

“Yes. The other kids make fun of him because he is special ed.”

“Yes him. Well he can’t dress himself, or take a shower by himself, or climb the rock wall.”

“So?”

“Well do you know where he is?”

“I don’t know.”

“He’s outside, having fun. You know why? Because even though he can’t do a lot of things, he deserves to have fun just like the rest of us. You can do so much more and you’re going to waste your time in this cabin?”

“Yes.”

“Well if you don’t go outside for yourself to have fun, go out there for Aaron, because if you are in here because you’re not good enough to be outside then you are saying that Aaron is not good enough and he should stay in his cabin. He can’t do a lot of things, and you can, but you would rather stay in here and waste your talents crying in your bunk instead of going outside. He can’t do a lot of things you can do, and the fact that you won’t do them is disrespectful to him because I know he wishes he could do half the things you can do. So you either go out there, and start noticing the stuff you can do rather than the things you can’t, or you stay in here and feel sorry for yourself while also being disrespectful to Aaron.”

“Okay.”

***

Maybe I was a little too upfront with Bryce, but I knew that he would understand what I said. Eventually he came out of his cabin, and I caught a glimpse of him giving Aaron a hug later that day. At dinner time he thanked me for making him realize that even if he thinks he’s not good enough, he has been blessed with much more than others and even if he feels sorry for himself, out of respect he should use those blessings to the best of his potential.

These last few days, reminiscing on Bryce and Aaron, I realized that I had burrowed myself in my anger, rather than counted the blessings around me. I am capable of patience, but chose to be impatient at the van driver. I am capable of walking, but chose to be irate at the broken down train. There are many that are emotionally unstable and not capable of handling anxiety, and there are those physically impaired that wish they could walk uphill, in the snow, both ways. If I sweat the small stuff rather than count my blessings and use them to their fullest, I will be no different than a sad kid, locked in a cabin, while everyone else is having fun at summer camp.

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