The other night I was driving back from running a rush errand to our neighborhood Walmart in order to pick up a replacement propane tank after mine ran out half-way through grilling. On the way back, I noticed the neighborhood church’s parking lot was full of cars. I thought, ‘that’s unusual for tonight’ and then saw their sign advertising ‘Traditional Candle Lighting Service’. 'Well, that explains it' I thought.
Ironically, I was wrestling with a small sense of guilt in the car when I drove by the church. You see, I was in such a hurry to get the tank refill, and knew exactly where to go to get it quick (through the side door of the Lawn & Garden department which was closest to the only checker), that I made a small, yet selfish, decision.
Normally, and you can ask the Mrs and she will tell you, I am polite to a fault, always opening the door for others and letting others go ahead of me at the check-out stand if we arrive at the same time (even if they have a full cart and I have a single item). This time, after turning the corner next to the checker, I noticed a woman hurrying to get there too. She was definitely trying to get out of the store quickly.
She was still nearly ten feet away and I was clearly there ahead of her. She looked at me with that, ‘I hope he lets me go first’ look and, for whatever reason, being not in the best of moods having been dealing with some things throughout the day, that I decided to act like I hadn’t noticed her coming and walked up to the checker to pay for my gas. I kept assuring myself that I just needed to pay for one tank and that she had a cart with about twenty items. Sure enough, I got the, ‘Well, he sure is selfish’ look from her after looking back to act like I'd just seen her. I tried to ignore it, and the checker seemed to be giving me the same look. Even so, he got me through quickly while she unloaded her cart. I knew, though, she was offended and I looked like a jerk.
I went outside and, while waiting for the greeting lady to come out with the key to exchange the tanks, that still, small voice got to me saying, ‘You could have let her go first’. I wrestled with it a bit and thought, ‘But God, you know I ALWAYS put others first and I was in a hurry and she had more stuff…’ That didn’t work, of course.
After getting in the car, it kept gnawing at me. ‘My mother didn’t teach me to be that way’ I thought. ‘I was just like one of those guys I get mad at for being selfish’ and then that still, small voice chimed in again, ‘What would it matter if you had to wait five more minutes if it meant being kind?’ That one got to me. So, when I drove by the church and saw all the people celebrating the birth of the one speaking to my heart, I felt about two feet tall.
After getting home, I spent the next thirty minutes, while finishing the chicken in the cold, asking God to help me become more like Him and to forgive my selfishness. He did of course. But, the experience, though a minor thing, helped me to see that, even when I’m having a bad day, kindness still matters to others.
This Christmas, with all the crazy, hectic Christmas shoppers out there, I will be making more of an effort to put a smile on my face, be patient, and to put others first, even if I’m in a hurry. I know God cares about them and I should too. If I lose touch with simple kindheartedness at Christmas, I really do need to do some introspection...
Thank you for putting up with my transparency tonight. I hope it might inspire someone to take the step I failed to make the other night, and put someone else first, even if they're in a hurry. Who knows, it may just make someone’s holiday seem a little less crazy and put a smile on their face too…
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