Lessons from a Poop Year

Thursday, December 29, 2016

It was a routine dental cleaning kind of morning. I arrived right before 7:30 a.m. just to get the job done and return to my family. The dental hygienist was a woman in her late early 50s with a nice Texas tan. She greeted me cheerfully and she was extremely gentle. We did the small talk thing. She asked me how many kids I had and their ages. I told her and she gave me the usual reaction: awe. We proceeded to talk about Christmas and 2016. She said 'it was such a poop year.' 

The hygienist would not volunteer details but it was clear 2016 was difficult in more than one front. She told me she had to do some bathroom floor work herself over the Christmas holidays. She told me the awful price the contractor was going to charge. Not a fun way to end an already challenging year. Right there and then, my heart connected with her unspoken pain. The hygienist had a bad year and I felt great compassion.

I also felt helpless, laying on my back with wearing red eye protection glasses and a saliva ejector stuck on the right side of my mouth. As soon I had a saliva break, I asked: "You said you had a difficult year. What did you learn?" 

My question caught her by surprise, but in a good way. She replied thoughtfully: "Wow, that's a good question. I learned that I survived my hardships and I developed persistence. I also learned that no matter how hard my year was, I talked to people who were going through much worse circumstances." 

She proceeded to give me details on the tough circumstances around her. She also told me that she liked my question and she was going to use that question again. She told me it made an impact on her. I gave all the glory to God.

Friends, I was honestly trying to get my teeth cleaned without much fuss from my dentist yesterday. When faced with a fellow human being who had a difficult year, I was overwhelmed with compassion. Instead of trying to force her to see the cup as half full (which I've done in other occasions), I opted for asking her what she learned through difficulty. 

I know by experience that poop years bring about a wealth of life lessons. Wisdom is birthed when we change our perspective and see the tough time as the classroom of life. When I was in college, I enjoyed hearing about the classes my peers were taking. Most of the time, they talked about how tough their classes were. I was more interested in hearing about what they were learning. I'm still like that in a way. 

I hope to stick with this habit of asking people what they've learned. I don't have to hear about your difficulty (I know it's tough to relive those moments) but I would love to hear about the wealth you acquired in life's classroom. 

Those lessons have a Divine purpose, you know? I didn't say it to that brave lady but I trust God that somehow, 2016 will serve as an object lesson of hope she will share with others. I know she blessed me that morning in the dentist chair.

I don't know what kind of year you had friend. What I do know is that you learned some valuable lessons. Would you care to share it with others?