I must confess, this story does not end as well as I hoped it would. I took my sweet niece to the movies yesterday to watch a beautifully animated story about a young girl’s desire to become a ballet dancer in spite of great obstacles. It was a lesson in overcoming difficulties to achieve one’s dreams. The movie theater was crowded, but we luckily found a row with five empty seats and we settled ourselves into the reclining leather movie chairs that my niece loves so much as she drank some long, satisfying sips of her frozen cherry Icee drink.
Just as the trailers were finishing up, a mom with three kids came in looking for four seats all together for the show. I noticed if we simply moved across the aisle to the row opposite that had two open seats, she would be able to enjoy the show without being separated from her family. She graciously accepted our offer and we slid over next to a charming looking family; a five year old boy, his sister, and his mom. Happy to have performed my good deed for the day, the theater lights fully darkened and the movie began.
For the next ninety minutes that charming five year old boy tested every fiber of patience in me. It began with his slurping rather loudly on his frozen drink. Once. Twice. Three times. Four times. My eleven year old niece (quietly sipping her Icee like a well-mannered young lady), was at first seated next to Prince Charming and didn’t say anything to me, but I could tell it was an annoyance. So I offered to switch places with her, hoping his mom at the end of the row might take notice of sonny and say something to her darling slurping boy, but she was a little too preoccupied with her cell phone, which was a warning to me that movie etiquette was in short supply with this trio.
Now seated next to the loud slurper, I decided to make a conscious effort to be very patient and kind. He was just a young kid after all and what did I expect going to a theater filled with children? In the words of Bob Newby, “Easy peasy.” I planned to ignore the sipping sounds for as long as I could and only if necessary would I speak up or shoot some well-meaning looks of concern over to cell phone momma with my concerned eyes, hoping she’d intervene. Not only did he continue to slurp and slurp, he then went on to scrape the bottom of his cup with the straw, followed by crushing the rounded plastic lid in his hands over and over and over again. Mom. Did. Nothing.
At this point my last nerve was fried and a firm “SHHHHHH” escaped my lips. His two big surprised eyes turned towards me, he finally stopped moving, and ‘Hallelujah!’ I was able to enjoy the next scene of the movie in relative peace and quiet. That is, until the little guy decided to recline and re-recline his leather theater chair, back and forth and back and forth, first long and slow reclining and then in short quick bursts, back and forth, all the while his chair making that leather on leather sliding sound.
I lost it and he got another “SHHHHHH” only louder and meaner, along with an angry mom stare from me. We both looked over at his mom thinking there’d be some reaction, but no. Nothing. That cell phone screen in front of her nose was the only movie in town as far as she was concerned. I won’t even begin to tell you about the sister who added her own slurping and reclining, so I won’t. Suffice it to say that the afternoon was a test in patience that I surely did not pass with flying colors.
My friends and I joke that I seem to attract the most unusual company when seated in an audience; the lady who reeks of cigarettes positioned next to me, the ultra-loud clapper near my sensitive ears, the seat kicker behind me, the tallest person in the room in front of me…
This five year old movie goer was composite of many of the behaviors that truly drive me up the wall. So while I was proud of myself for not totally losing it right away, I wish I could have endured the slurping, crinkling, and reclining with perfect patience and forbearance. All things considered, I’m gonna take only two “Shhhhs” as a growth spurt in holiness because the Sunny of a few years ago would’ve LOUDLY complained to both the kid and the mom and maybe even the theater manager. Because… how rude!
I like to think I’ve tried to grow up a little over the years and not be too bothered by these annoying situations. I’ve been attempting to “offer it up” as my mother used to say to me when I was a little girl – always adding, “Think of all the poor souls in Purgatory you can help by offering up your suffering for them.” My afternoon movie experience, by comparison, is nothing when I consider the suffering I see in the news almost every day now, but I’m learning that my attempts at overcoming little annoyances are the training ground for overcoming the big ones. Every day brings with it its opportunities to do little things with great love as two of my favorite saints (St. Thérèse of Lisieux and St. Teresa of Calcutta) always demonstrated.
In Volume four of In Conversation With God, Father Francis Fernandez writes, “…probably every day we come up against little things that annoy us and that we had not expected, whether at work, in our family life, or in the carrying out of our plans we have made for a particular day… These are opportunities for telling God that we love Him, precisely through accepting those very things we may have shied away from at the outset. When we accept a particular reverse – be it great or small – with love, and offer it to God, we experience peace and joy in the midst of sorrow. (Refection 8).”
I’m sure that five year old child was just being his naturally noisy little boy person, so I tried to be understanding and really worked on being patient. I am grateful I didn’t TOTALLY lose it. It was so wonderful to have spent the afternoon with my niece and the movie was surprisingly enjoyable even with the maker of all noises next to me. I hope this week I will be able to look upon any little annoyance that occurs as an opportunity to grow in holiness even if it is only one short burst at a time.