by Anita DiGregory

“Lessons Learned from the Chicken Guy”

It was one of those horrible, awful, no good, really bad days. I was rushed, not Mary Poppins “spit spot” rushed, more like Dirty Harry “make my day” rushed! The day was a recipe for disaster…start with a frazzled, working mom of six…add in hosting a get-together at the house…mix in that the house is already a huge mess…stir in some extended family drama brewing in the background…top it off with no idea of how many guests will be arriving the next day for said event, and you have the recipe for my day:  the perfect storm!

I was more than just a little stressed when I headed off for the day, my giant to-do list in hand. I had to drop off my daughter at work, shop for gifts, shop for food, pick up my daughter, drop the carload of supplies off, get to Mass, and get home to resume cleaning and prepping, all within a matter of hours.

Well, drop-off and gift shopping didn’t go as planned, so by the time I arrived at the store, I was focused on getting it all done as quickly and efficiently as possible. Grabbing a cart, I mapped out in my head each stop I would make, the last one being the meat department where I would grab the rotisserie chickens for the gluten-free chicken salad.  And that, my friends, is where it happened…right there in the meat department.

After running all over the place, adding this and that to the cart, I stopped by to grab the chickens.  The few that were left had been hanging out for a while. So, I grabbed a couple more groceries from here and there and came back…still no fresh chickens. The checkout lines were growing, and it was getting dangerously close to my daughter’s pick-up time. I zoomed around and made a couple additions to the cart. I returned and still no chickens! Now, by this time, I was pretty confident that the store employee tasked with preparing and stocking the chickens, whom I affectionately shall refer to as “the chicken guy,” had seen me in my harried trips back and forth through the store. I was also pretty sure I had unintentionally irritated him on past shopping expeditions by sifting carefully through the chickens, looking for the most well done bird. But, today, with the time clock clicking loudly in my head and visions of my daughter standing out on the street waiting for me, today after he carefully and methodically prepared the chickens for sale and placed them out and I scooped up the first four without delay, TODAY was the day he chose to counsel me on my chicken-choosing strategies.

Well that, my friends, was it. Mic drop, game over. That quick little interaction was the proverbial straw that broke this harried mother’s back. As I pushed my overloaded cart to the register and waited in line, I played the interaction over again in my head.  By the time I had everything in the car, I was wondering why, out of all the customers this store must see, why did my chicken choices frustrate this person so much he chose to counsel me. Having safely retrieved my daughter, I continued to focus on the day’s dramas and felt increasingly insecure and upset.  There was a huge backup on the way home; we had to take a detour and just barely made it to Mass on time.

Silent and still for the first time that day, I felt the tears well up and then the insecurities circled round; “You are a mess…even the chicken guy hates you!” Okay, this was definitely not my finest moment, but true nonetheless. Now, in reality, the chicken guy had probably had a bad day, and I had definitely had a bad day. But in those moments, all my insecurities and baggage that I carry from other hurts translated in my mind to, “Everyone hates me!”

God and my family helped me sort through things and see the truth. But here’s the kicker: Later that very evening, I ran into a good friend who happens to be a new mom. After talking for a while, she confided through her tears that she felt like she couldn’t do anything right, and she believed no one liked her. It broke my heart that this sweet, loving, devoted mom was feeling this way. Having felt this exact way just hours earlier, I understood how she was feeling and convinced her that her assertions could not have been further from the truth; in fact, she is a wonderful mother and friend, and people really do care about her.

I am not sure why we moms fall into this trap so often. It isn’t like this mom thing isn’t hard enough!  Maybe we need to do a better job of building each other up and supporting one another. Sometimes, we need to work on changing how we look at things, our paradigm.

Dr. Stephen Covey said, “Paradigms are powerful because they create the lens through which we see the world… If you want small changes in your life, work on your attitude. But if you want big and primary changes, work on your paradigm.”

So, sometimes, we might have to force ourselves to realize that maybe the chicken guy was just having a bad day, too.

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