Can a Leopard Change its Spots?

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about change. Changes in your life, changes in your person. In my own life, things are morphing. I am coming to the end of my time as a pet store manager and am about to begin my time as a day-care grandmother. Yup, I’m going to be babysitting my wee granddaughter a couple days of week when her mother returns to work. I am excited about it, and I am scared to death. It has been a long time since I had a child entrusted to my care and it makes me nervous. But what fun we will have. Toys, books and games. Naps!

I can’t wait to read to my grandchildren. I’ve already started a collection of books. (Okay, I confess, I saved all my own children’s books.) This week we visited the bookstore and picked out a dozen new board books for her. (Some are for my house, some are for hers.) At eleven months, she doesn’t have much patience for sitting, but seems to enjoy me reading to her while she plays with other toys and she like looking at them on her own. Life is grand! (We writers want everyone to develop a love of the written word.)

Oh yeah, this blog started with talk about changes. I nearly forgot where I was going with that. It always seems that just when I adapt to the current routine, something new pops up and I have to adapt again. It is a darn good thing that people have that adaptability skill. I wonder how long it will take me to make the adjustment from working woman to stay at home grandmother. I am hopeful that it will be a quick change and that I will find more time to write when I am finished working; if not in the daytime, perhaps in the evenings.

I need that writing time. I need to put pen to paper (metaphorically speaking) and purge the stories that fill my head. Some are short and some are longer; some of them are downright bizarre, but they all clamour for release. I am hoping, no I am planning, to make more time for writing down those. And that is good news for my readers!

But these are small changes; changes in situations or routines. But what about personality changes? What about when you take a close look at yourself and decide that you don’t like everything you see? What happens then?

It is a difficult thing when you realize that there are very ugly facets of your personality. It is painful to think that this might be what people see when they look at you. I few months ago, I dealt with a particularly fractious and miserable client at work. She was snappish, argumentative, rude and disagreeable. She complained about the assortment of foods, the quality of toys, the leashes, the prices and about many other facets of the store, including how long it took to get service. It took rather a lot of self-control not to snap at her and be nasty right back. Truthfully, I don’t know why I didn’t; typically, I would have.

A few days later, I popped into Timmy’s to get a coffee. It was crazy busy and I found my patience wearing thin. At that point, an image of my grumpy customer popped into my head and I realized that there were days when I act exactly as she did. It wasn’t a proud moment for me. In fact, I was ashamed at how many times I had made someone’s life miserable without true cause.

I spent a lot of time thinking about this. And at length, decided that it was time to make some changes. I’m doing my best, but it isn’t always easy to be patient and understanding. Harder still is to continue looking for the best in other people and to smile.

But you know what; I think it might be working. Deep inside I feel happier and I think I am actually becoming a more patient and pleasant person.

A few weeks ago, a young girl came into the shop and stood by the door looking worried. She looked to be about ten or twelve. She had one small dog wiggling in her arms and another on a leash. I offered her help and she declined and told me that her aunt had told her to wait there for her. I found a spare leash for the dog in her arms so he could be on the floor, and I talked to her a bit about the dogs. About fifteen minutes later, her aunt showed up and they were off.

A few days later, the aunt came back to the store, and told me that while her niece had waited inside the store, she was busy tracking down a stray dog that was running up and down the busy street beside the store. After telling me why she had sent her niece to wait in the store, she said, “Oh, I’m glad I finally found you. I’ve been back a couple of times looking for you. I just wanted to thank you for being so kind to my niece. She said you were very welcoming and made her feel comfortable while she waited for me. We really appreciate what you did.” It was touching to be told this by someone who was out risking life and limb to rescue a stray animal.

Now, the point of this story isn’t that I am a wonderful person. It’s that I did something as simple as talking to a child and it made a huge impact on her. When that woman left, I felt like a million dollars, I want that feeling every day. Years from now, when I am gone, I want people to think of me and remember the kindness I have shown them, not the bitchy side that is so easy to let out.

I want to find the joy in living and being kind and understanding.

I want to change, for the better. And I am excited to teach the joy of giving and kindness to my grandchildren. This leopard is trying to change her spots.