Things are looking up for Troy. Summer’s around the corner, he’s wrapping up his spring semester at the community college, and the dynamics with his stepmother Maureen are at least more polite than they were a few months ago. He knows he’s lucky to have met Grace and Abe who, through their kindness and shared wisdom, have helped him begin to turn his life around. He’s in love with Maggie and knows he’s lucky she loves him in return even after he’s told her some of the darker things from his past. He’s determined to clean up his act and grow into the man he wants to be. With the things he’s learned from Grace and Abe that means developing his wisdom and offering across-the-board compassion, including to Maureen.
If you come to the diner where Maggie and Troy work you’ll see them busily serving a steady stream of customers. And if you come on a Thursday morning you’ll see Mrs. Sternau walk past the blossoming lilac trees and enter through the creaky screen door. An elderly woman with white hair swept into a neatly pinned twist, she uses her cane with the dignity of royalty and greets you with grandmotherly kindness. One might say it’s just an elderly woman’s delusional thinking that imagines her deceased husband’s presence in the chair opposite her, or by leaving tenderly written messages for him on the paper placemats. But Troy is not quite so sure that’s the case. He can’t resist reading her insightful messages when he clears the table and, although they are lovingly written to her husband, he is intrigued by the relevance they often have in his own life.
When Troy helps Mrs. Sternau with repairs at her house he is invited to stay for lunch. Their luncheon extends into a long afternoon visit to discuss important matters that have come to Mrs. Sternau’s mind. Troy learns that she has a history of uncommon stories, and a mysterious way of straddling unseen dimensions to address a topic she knows well and senses he has the need to understand.
Her teaching is on patience, the most powerful antidote to anger. Patience isn’t simply waiting without complaint for things to happen, or seething on the inside while appearing calm on the outside. It is learning first to understand the root cause of anger and its destructive nature. There is no enemy other than ignorance; therefore cultivating wisdom (understanding the true nature of how things exist) facilitates the most powerful antidote to anger by destroying ignorance at its root. Resentments exist nowhere except in the mind, so any attempt to eliminate resentment must also take place within the mind.
Comprehending the teaching is one thing; putting it into practice is another. With Troy’s history of violence in the face of anger he knows painfully well the negative results his own anger has delivered. His motivation to eliminate any potential for a repeat performance is high. The circumstances Troy meets are enough to push anyone over the edge yet the mastery he demonstrates of the practice of patience is both instructive and inspirational. You will feel the power of Troy’s effort to learn this teaching in all its fullness, and you will feel the power of patience when Troy implements its wisdom. And if you’ve listened carefully, you will have given yourself the gift of never viewing anger or hostility the same way again.