My friend, Jessie, sat across the table from me with the saddest look on her face. She wasn’t angry, although she spoke loudly as she vented her frustration. She wasn’t crying, but I could clearly see that she was heart-broken. As she recounted the recent experience with her father-in-law, Bill, I could easily understand her pain.
“He just doesn’t get it! When I told him about Cody’s baby well-check today, and how the doctor seemed concerned about the lack of growth in the past months, Bill kept interrupting me. I was trying to tell him what might be wrong or why they are concerned but all he said was that I was worrying too much and that the doctor was probably trying to get more money out of us by ordering special lab tests. I love our pediatrician, and I don’t doubt his abilities or judgment one bit! Bill even said that maybe Ryan should take him to the appointments from now on so I don’t ‘freak out’!”
I gave her a sympathetic smile. It sounded like Bill was about to miss out on finding out future details about his sweet grandson. Poor Bill….he really had no clue. I listened for a while longer and then I heard her say what was really weighing on her heart.
“Talking to Bill really makes me miss my Dad. He would really look at me when I talked to him. He never interrupted me and I felt like…..like what I said actually mattered. Even in high school, when I would worry about a test or tell him about stuff going on with boys, he would just listen. I know I worry a lot….but he really understood me. I miss that part of him more than anything.” Her eyes filled with tears
I told her that it sounds like they don’t sell bread at the hardware store. She looked at me, confused, “What does that mean?” I shared with her a valuable lesson I had learned a few years earlier. The rest of the conversation went something like this:
If you go to the hardware store, you can buy hand tools, nails, paint and all the supplies necessary to remodel the rooms in your house. You can buy supplies to fix your toilet, repair the furnace or buy a new ceiling fan. Depending on the season, you might even be able to find a scented candle and Christmas decorations. But one thing is for certain — you won’t find bread. If you walk in the door, hoping to smell that distinctive, marvelous fragrance of warm dough baking in the oven, you will be met, instead, with the oily smell of equipment and a faint waft of chemicals. You can search every aisle. You can ask the helpful workers “which aisle will I find the bread?”….and they will definitely tell you that there is no bread at the hardware store. So what do we do? Sometimes you just really need some bread. You crave bread. But you will always walk away disappointed if that’s what you expect at the hardware store.
The imperfect people in our lives (that’s everyone) aren’t necessarily equipped to give us what we emotionally need or even what we expect and hope for. I told Jessie that Bill is the hardware store. She goes to him needing “bread” (because her experience with her own Dad was that he was an AMAZING bread maker). However, Bill doesn’t know the first thing about making break. So she can expect bread every time she shares a concern with Bill, but it might be better for everyone if she realizes he doesn’t have any. At all.
After I explained this to Jessie, she stared at me in amazement. “You are SO right!! Wow…I’ve never thought of it that way. I really do love Bill and he does so much for us. I need to stop expecting him to change. He probably doesn’t even know where to buy yeast!” We had a good laugh and she seemed relieved. I shared that once I learned the bread/hardware store concept, I realized that I was expecting to receive bread from people who don’t even know how to turn on the oven. I would then resent them for not being who I thought they should be or not reacting how I thought they should in certain situations. When my perspective changed, so did my relationships. They improved and were much less contentious.
Thankfully, I happen to know several bakers and I now know to go to those friends when I need “bread”.