The episode opens with Donna in the kitchen on the phone. Mary comes in and says there is a police officer at the door. Donna goes out to see the officer and the officer asks her if she knows the little boy that he has with him. The boy is about seven and wearing pajamas and a robe. Donna says she does not know him. The boy won’t give his name or any identifying information.
The phone rings and it is Alex. He tells Donna he won’t be home for dinner because a seven-year old boy ran away from the hospital. Donna tells Alex that the boy is at their home. Alex asks her to keep him there and tells Donna that his name is David. The officer departs.
David is sullen and defensive. He seems angry with the world. When Alex comes home he lets Donna know that the boy has been at a military academy and is a notorious problem child. Donna cannot believe that such a young child could be so terrible. David soon shows his stripes by smashing Jeff’s fish tank. Donna intercedes and is able to win the boy’s trust. He still has not warmed up to the rest of the Stones.
David continuously declares he will not return to school. Donna convinces Alex to call the school and see if David can spend the long Thanksgiving holiday with them. He does and the school is overjoyed to have a David-free weekend.
As the weekend progresses David grows more comfortable with the Stones and his behavior improves dramatically. Jeff has his own meltdown when Alex is called to the hospital just as he and Jeff are about to depart for the Thanksgiving game. Jeff vents his disappointment at Alex.
Donna finds a very curt letter from David’s dad to David. It is heartbreaking. She offers to scribe a letter for David back to his dad. David lets out a flood of anger, hurt, and resentment. Donna writes it down but David decides he doesn’t want to send it.
Jeff forgives Alex and feels bad about yelling at him. Jeff and David bond.
The Stones and David sit down to Thanksgiving dinner. They are about to begin the meal when there is a knock at the door. It is David’s father, Major Barker. David runs and hides. The major tells the Stones of his frustration with David, his divorce, and the pressures of his job. He is very hard on David. Donna gives him the letter she scribed for David. The major reads it and his anger recedes. David comes in and the major embraces him and tells him how loved he is. The major joins David and the Stones for Thanksgiving dinner.
The next morning David prepares to return to school with a whole new attitude. Alex tells him he can visit any time. David asks if he can come the following weekend and bring a friend. The Stones agree.
Bad behavior often masks deep hurt.
We are, most of us, quick to remember this lesson with younger children. When a cherubic face is barking colorful phrases peppered with a generous dose of four-letter expletives the discord between the information being gathered by our eyes and ears is so extreme that we instantly register that something is wrong with this situation. However, when the bad behavior comes from a person who is no longer cute and vulnerable looking we are often quick to either mentally or verbally label the person a derriere-hole and move on.
Part of this may be an age issue. We expect adults to have a better handle on their emotions and know how to handle their disappointments and frustrations. Yet, I am sure that each one of us can name at least a dozen times when our challenging moments have been vented inappropriately. We forgive ourselves these lapses and make amends to those we’ve hurt, but we are often not so quick to forgive others who exhibit these same episodes.
I know that one of my pet peeves is poor customer service. When I come across an associate who is rude or unhelpful it drives me nuts. I have not made purchases because of bad service. I have also been known to give a bit of attitude back. This results in two people behaving badly. This kind of thing can spread quickly, but we have the power to stop it.
Some days it seems like the whole world is in a bad mood. The path of least resistance leads us to just join the negativity. I forget sometimes how easy it is to, instead of adding to the gloom, turn things around. A simple smile, a kind word, or a little joke can be the catalyst that makes an unpleasant day into a great day. Why don’t I remember this more often?
Plan of Action
I know I am sounding rather Pollyana-ish right now, but I needed this reminder. People get grumpy in the city. There’s a lot beeping, shouting, and cold stares. I will remember that the behavior of others does not have to be my behavior and that the Grumpy-Gus next to me on the bus probably has a good reason to be grumpy. Instead of adding to his reasons, I will try to make his a day a bit more pleasant with a smile. Maybe, some of that positivity will come back to me when I am in a funk.