I realized that I was going to have spend quite a bit of time with her and do a LOT of explaining. As I was copying some of her documents and standing at the copier silently bitching to myself about why couldn't she have gone to one of my coworkers, it hit me that I needed to suck it up. I walked back to her with a new attitude, well, I faked a new attitude until I didn't have to fake it anymore. It was a crisis situation to her and she needed help.
I took it very slowly and told her we were going to break it down and deal with one thing at a time. I put sticky notes with instructions on her papers and made little packets of each different thing that needed to be done. During this time she was in and out of weepy and whiney. This combo does not endear me to anyone, but I gritted my teeth and said a few sympathetic words and would get her back on track. During this time the lineup of customers behind her was growing. The man next in line appeared interested in what we were doing, but fortunately did not look irritated or impatient.
So we finally got to the end and I asked if she had any questions and did it make sense to her. She said it was all clear and thanked me for being kind and helping her. We said our goodbyes and I wished her well. Whew!
I smiled at the man that was waiting and asked how could I help him. He said "You were very nice to that woman and you just made a difference in someone's life" If he only knew how I felt when I first started helping her or how annoyed I was from time to time. I felt like I really didn't deserve such a compliment.
But perhaps the lesson is that it doesn't matter how I felt. I gave compassion, kindness and time to someone having a hard time. Who am I to judge whether or not her reactions and feelings are appropriate.
A little kindness goes a long ways and costs us nothing and you never know it might just make someone's day a little brighter.