A Cavalcade of Crankiness
by the Rev. Steven L. McKinley (July / August 2004 — Volume 20, Number 4)
Did you ever have one of those weeks, sisters and brothers? I’ve had one this week. Even as I type, it is a Friday morning, and I am praying that the week will soon arrive at a peaceful end.
Here’s what really puzzles me. There is no reason this should have been one of those weeks. The Minnesota weather isn’t bad for March. (Many readers do not know that each issue of this magazine is hand-lettered in a small community of elderly Lutheran monks and nuns located just outside of Provo, Utah, and thus requires a long lead time.) It hit 40 degrees a couple days this week, and the sun has actually appeared once or twice. We are having an excellent Lent, insofar as one can have an excellent Lent, with record numbers of people involved in small group study. No one has died all week. Minnesota sports teams are doing about as well as we ever expect our sports teams to do. The finances of House of Prayer Lutheran Church are not wonderful, but they are better than they were a month ago. For all intents and purposes, things are, as Minnesotans say when they are exuberant, not that bad.
Week of Crankiness
Nonetheless, there has been an epidemic of crankiness around here this week. I would like to tell you about this in detail, but I am sure that I would be violating all the canons of pastoral confidentiality in every other sentence if I did. Therefore, I will attempt to tell you about it in such vague terms that no individual (other than yours truly) will be identifiable, in the belief that the general dynamic of the saga will be either instructive for you or familiar to you.
On Monday morning volunteer Owl greeted me with a mild snarl because I had not yet given Owl the sermon title for the following Sunday. The fact that I was not the assigned preacher for the Sunday in question did nothing to dissuade Owl from Owl’s persistence in seeking the title from me.
Then Rabbit came in to my office to complain about the unreasonableness of Otter, and when Rabbit was finished with Rabbit’s lament about Otter, Rabbit moved on to the rudeness of Sparrow.
And then I had a phone call from Bear that was mostly concerned with the shenanigans of Lion and why I was not being more direct in dealing with Lion. There was a clear indication given that the Bear-Lion conflict was a problem that was not going to go away anytime in the near future.
And then came an e-mail from Tiger, unhappy with what we were doing with the small groups in Lent.
Needless to say, by then I was feeling like a pudgy little bundle of joy, so, just to lighten my spirit even more I did what I had said I was going to do for a couple of weeks and went off to a matinee showing of Hollywood Mel’s cinematic treatment of The Passion of the Christ. My lovely wife and charming daughter had made it clear that they had zero interest in viewing the film, so I went by myself. Needless to say, the movie did nothing to send me out the door with a song in my heart and a bounce in my stride.
I snuck back to the office for a few minutes, and then retreated home for a cheerful evening of watching the basketball teams I was pulling for lose their games.
Tuesday dawned bright and beautiful, but early on Pigeon called me to tell me how no one wanted to listen to what Pigeon had to say, how people ignored Pigeon and talked rudely to Pigeon, and how people were impatient with Pigeon and refused to hear Pigeon out. This is fairly tricky. Pigeon has a tendency to feel this way, and usually I can deal with Pigeon fairly expeditiously, but since a big part of Pigeon’s lament that day had to do with people dealing with Pigeon expeditiously, I was more patient than usual.
In all honesty the rest of the day was not all that bad, save for the fact that Turtle called me up to let me know that Muskrat was still unhappy about not having been given sufficient public recognition for a financial gift Muskrat had made through us. Insofar as Muskrat had requested anonymity in the gift, I found this a little puzzling, but what do I know? I made an appointment to talk with Turtle and Muskrat together on Thursday. And Tuesday evening I was with Gopher, Wolverine, Beaver, and Robin, all of whom had complaints to make about Squirrel, and all of whom thought I had to do something about Squirrel.
Wednesday morning I sat down with Squirrel and Rabbit and Otter and Sparrow and handled the situation suavely enough to preclude any bloodshed. I chose to overlook snide facial expressions and surly comments.
Thursday Lion and Cougar got into an e-mail brouhaha, and both chose to copy me in on their messages to each other, each entreating me to take their side in the argument. Lion and I had a heart-to-heart telephone conversation about the whole mess. And Turtle and Muskrat came in for a conversation.
Thursday evening I went home and charming daughter said to me “How was your day?” and I growled “Fine,” but perhaps the tone of my growl and the set of my jaw indicated that this answer was not completely truthful. Out of the earshot of charming daughter, I filled lovely wife in on what had been happening the last few days, and then posed a question that had been bothering me.
You see, when I am surrounded by an epidemic of crankiness I tend to think that there is someone carrying the crankiness virus around, and since it seemed like it was the people around me who were being most afflicted, I wondered if I might be the carrier of crankiness. I raised the question with lovely wife, who can always be counted on to tell the truth. And, to my relief, she did not, in fact, seem to think that it was me. She did not think that I was any crankier than usual.
So now it is Friday, and, save for the fact that Hedgehog, whom we had been counting on to do a few things around here today, suffered a major automotive malfunction and was unable to make it until very late, and that Sparrow thought Hedgehog was loafing, the day is going swimmingly. Otter snarled Otter’s way through here a little while ago, but I have seen no apparent victims.
What’s the Point?
Now if you are a doggedly persistent reader, one who has endured to this point out of the belief that there must be a point to all this, I’ve got bad news for you. There isn’t. Well, maybe just a little one. As the bumper sticker puts it, “Bad Things Happen.” (I know that is not exactly what the bumper sticker says, but those elderly Lutheran monks and nuns in Provo wouldn’t write the real word or even a suggestive substitute.) If you haven’t had a week like this, be patient. You will. But it will pass. I have had enough of them over the years to know that they pass. And life goes on. The sun shines. Children laugh. And Christ is risen, Christ is risen indeed.
So tonight I am going to go home and take lovely wife and charming daughter out to dinner and play with our two dogs, the old distinguished one and the young crazy one, and tomorrow I am going to take the day off and leave Owl, Rabbit, Otter, Sparrow, Bear, Lion, Tiger, Pigeon, Turtle, Muskrat, Gopher, Wolverine, Beaver, Robin, Squirrel, Cougar and Hedgehog to God and their own devices. They can, I trust, survive a day without me.
Next week, I am sure, will be better. I hope.
Steven L. McKinley, perpetual optimist, is senior pastor at House of Prayer Lutheran Church, Richfield, MN.