Fridays evoke a sense of excitement for me usually because it is the end of a busy week and it means the approaching of two luxuriously relaxing days of not setting an alarm, sleeping in, and staying in my pyjamas for an embarrassingly, but totally justifiably, long time. Despite my aching for extra hours of uninterrupted sleep, my body is too accustomed to my 7 a.m. wake ups Monday-Friday that the natural response is to open my eyes at the same time Saturday and Sunday. Reasonably so, I fight this response, grab the blankets, close my eyes and try to squeeze in another two or three hours.
Just before I get to hibernate for the weekend, I spend my Friday mornings volunteering at a centre for adults with severe learning, and intellectual disabilities who participate in day programs to develop interpersonal and life skills. If you were to ask any of the participants what Friday evokes for them I’m sure their answers would be very different from mine. Fridays at the centre means stomachs grumbling and the smell of buttery warm popcorn traveling through the air. Every Friday the kitchen crew pops popcorn and packages close to seventy bags of this special treat to sell on lunch break. As part of my responsibilities is that I accompany the tray of goods to the lunchroom and help distribute the bags to the paying customers. My first day helping with popcorn distribution I stood silently next to the employee as she collected the money and handed out the bags. Admittedly I felt out of place, uncomfortable, and found myself thinking about how I might be running this distribution differently. There was popcorn falling on the ground and dressing spilling over which made me cringe. As the last lady stepped forward to pay for her bag of popcorn she opened her wallet struggling to find the necessary coins to make seventy-five cents. She rustled through her wallet and eventually just dumped all the coins she had into the tray of popcorn. I winced. All the coins were mixed with the popcorn remains. I thought about how long it would take to place the coins back in her wallet. The lack of patience I experienced inwardly at this whole scene became instantly clear, as the employee handing out the popcorn calmly sorted the coins to help the lady make the correct amount of change, and just as calmly helped to pick up all the coins and place them back in the wallet. I was moved by the amount of patience this employee exhibited in this situation. Her patience clearly had been practiced every day, fostered in her daily interactions, and emerged from habit because of her ability to exemplify this virtue so naturally and instinctively.
I am trained to wake up at 7 a.m. every morning, that even when I want to sleep in, my body reacts differently. This is my habit. This particular popcorn Friday revealed another habit of mine, one that may not be admirable. I was grateful for this opportunity and reminder to continuously strive to develop the virtues that will make me into the best version of myself, which means acknowledging and working to break bad habits. I am sure we are all faced with a desire to better ourselves, but the struggle lies in the action we take to instigate change and break from repetitive behaviour that does not make us loving individuals. For me, Fridays may come once a week, but I have multiple opportunities throughout my day to practice, foster, and form a habit of patience. If not today, when?