Rain streaked the windows. It clattered on the roof like the hooves of an angry herd of buffalo thundering across the Oklahoma plains and surrounded the house with a dark impregnable gray curtain. “I hate rain!” mumbled 15 year old Kristen. She had been cooped up all day with a mischievous 4 year old brother who kept getting into everything it seemed. Now she had to baby-sit for her parents on a Saturday afternoon when she could be out with her friends at the mall in Shawnee laughing and having all kinds of fun. But she was home in the living room that looked like a toy-strewn battleground. Kristen felt like a prisoner of war.
Kristen got on all fours and began picking up books, plastic soldiers, balls and over a dozen other children’s’ toys. “I hate kids’ toys!” Kristen said, frowning crossly. Karl, her little brother, frowned back.
“Can I have a cookie, Kristen, PLEASE?” asked Karl.
“Cookies make crumbs and I hate having to clean up after you!” Kristen grumbled. Karl pouted at his big sister.
“I don’t have anything to do.” Karl shouted.
His mouth turned down. He started to whimper. Thunder outside snapped overhead like a giant rubber band had struck the roof. The gloom inside the house deepened between Kristen and her brother. So Kristen turned on the TV and heard the familiar music to “Sesame Street”.
“Kristen!” Karl screamed. “The dog chewed up my green, blue and yellow crayons! Why did the dog do that?”
“I hate dogs!” Kristen shouted as she began cleaning up the mess.
Then suddenly, a voice on television said, “I hate dogs!” Kristen looked up to see if there was an echo in the room. But it was Oscar the Grouch, the outrageous, shaggy, green creature who lives in a trash can whose negative response reflected her every action and statement it would seem. Kristen paused for a moment and watched Oscar as he went about the business of hating any and everything and making everyone around him miserable and uncomfortable. Kristen suddenly felt like she was looking in the mirror at herself. She shifted her eyes to the rain-soaked window then to her little brother desperate for her to do something. Kristen thought there would always be difficult and unpleasant circumstances that she knew she could not change no matter how hard she tried. She did, however, come to realize that she could improve the climate that surrounded them with a few adjustments in her attitude and disposition. Kristen also came to realize that if things were going to get better, it would have to begin with her.
Kristen surprised her little brother with a hug. “How’s ‘bout a cookie Karl?” She said with a big smile.