Wherever you go, no matter what the weather, always bring your own sunshine.– Anthony J D’Angelo
Recently I went to a new doctor’s office for the first time, and as I waited in line at the front desk, I found myself hoping that I’d end up checking-in with the receptionist on the left instead of the receptionist on the right. Both female and at the upper end of middle-aged, the former was clearly “the friendly one” whereas the latter I mentally deemed “the grumpy one.”
I have no idea what the circumstances of these women’s lives were, and for all I know the grumpy one had very good reasons for her foul mood. Perhaps she was grieving the loss of a spouse, sibling, parent or child. Maybe she or a loved one had recently received a devastating diagnosis. It’s possible that one of her adult children was struggling with addiction, or that she was the thankless caregiver for an aging parent, or that she was going through a taxing divorce.
But I would wager a guess that the friendly receptionist had also endured her share of challenges in life. Who, by the time they are in their late sixties, hasn’t suffered from some sort of loss, crisis or dashed dream?
It’s possible that the grumpy receptionist was grumpy just that day, and that, had I visited the office the week before, the demeanors of the two would be reversed. But I suspect that the auras exuded on that particular morning were not unusual. I could see a softness in the face of the friendly one, and I got a sense from the laugh lines around her eyes that her smile was a regular facial fixture. There was an opposite sort of hardness to the grumpy one’s features.
Not having the least sense of her life situation, I am hesitant to criticize the grumpy receptionist for her less-than-welcoming comportment, and I would certainly never complain or submit negative feedback to a supervisor or manager. But I will say that my observations as I stood in line that morning got me wondering if I’d be categorized as “a grumpy one” or “a friendly one” if observed by a stranger.
Like anyone, there are days when I feel grumpy and days when I feel friendly. There are days when the good things in life put a spring in my step and a smile on my face, and days when a bad night’s sleep, concern about a loved one, or a parking ticket leave me scowling. And then there are days when I fail to laugh and exude gratitude even though I am blessed beyond measure, as well as days when I am able to summon cheerfulness despite a recent cause for distress. In other words, no matter what’s going on, I do have some choice in the matter of whether I fall into the grumpy or the friendly camp. I think it’s area worth exerting some reflective, positive control.
Teresa Coda works as a Director of Faith Formation at a Catholic Church, dabbles in interfaith hospital chaplaincy, and writes about life and spirituality. She has a Masters in Divinity from Harvard Divinity School where she studied theology and pastoral care and counseling. She lives in Providence, Rhode Island with her husband Caleb, her daughter Esther and her Boston terrier Bean.