The silver SUV was heading the opposite direction as I drove to the post office. Suddenly the driver did a U-turn right in front of me. I honked quickly to let him know I was there. As I griped out loud to no one about having to hit my brakes suddenly to avoid a collision, he turned down a side street and I drove on. My thoughts returned to the errands ahead of me and I quickly forgot about the incident.
When I arrived at the post office, I was first in line and one of my favorite clerks took care of my postal business. We chatted while she rang me up. “Such a sweet lady,” I thought. While she processed my mail, she greeted another regular customer, asking how his day was going. His response indicated that life was challenging at best. As I left, I wished them both a good day and headed to the grocery store hoping that that gentleman found something today to bring him some joy.
I smiled as I pulled into the Fry’s parking lot when I found a spot right up front waiting for me. Who doesn’t love getting a parking spot near the door, right? Apples, lettuce, strawberries, bread, and the other items on my list were added to the hand basket I was carrying as I made my way through the store. And cash register #5 was wide open when I was ready to check out. Awesome! A friendly cashier greeted me and rang up my items without delay. “Have a great day!” I said cheerily as I departed. I loaded my few bags and hopped in my van, thinking about the work I’d start on when I got back to my home office.
After I pulled out of my parking spot, I paused for a woman pushing a cart slowly, going diagonally through the crosswalk, which caused her crossing to take longer. I *almost* responded by thinking, “Come on. Let’s go!” But then I saw her … a frail, elderly woman holding onto the arm of the woman pushing the cart. It was an obvious effort for the older women to walk that distance, but she was doing it, little shuffling step by little shuffling step.
I try hard to be patient with people, to be friendly, to believe the best. I know this is right and good. It honors God and it’s how I want to be treated, too. We’re all doing the best we can, after all. But my flesh still rises up more often than I’d care to admit.
A flash of a memory of my mom in her final months popped into my mind. My heart squeezed and tears came to my eyes as I waited and watched them cross. My mom was frail and thin, lacking strength to walk far or stand for long near the end. When she was still able to go the grocery store with me, she would get the few items she needed then sit on a bench at the front of the store to wait. No longer could she walk the whole store, nor could she bend easily or lift heavy items. And then there came a time when she couldn’t go to the store with me at all anymore.
In that moment, as these ladies crossed slowly in front of my vehicle, I’m reminded to be gentle … and patient … and kind. I can wait. I’m not more important than these women. My time isn’t more valuable. It feels like a sacred moment where the Lord reminds me that kindness must be the rule in my life. Once the ladies were through the crosswalk, I drove on, repentant for my own impatience. Even the guy who pulled in front of me didn’t deserve my irritation. And the enemy certainly doesn’t deserve to gain any ground in my heart and mind allowing him to steal my peace and my joy through annoyances.
I need this reminder today. People matter. The nice ones. The grumpy ones. The hurting ones. The joyful ones. The young ones. The old ones. And all the ones in between. We live in a culture that’s me-focused and always in a hurry. The smallest delay or inconvenience causes us to feel slighted and offended. Our flesh rises up. It’s ugly.
Am I only patient and kind when I get a friendly clerk or a good parking spot? Oh goodness, I hope not! Please Lord, soften my heart and help me to see people and love people the way You do. Help me choose kindness before my flesh even gets a chance to respond or have a negative, impatient thought.
What if today—this day—we each choose to be a little more gentle, a little more kind, and a lot more patient with one another … whether the recipient’s own behavior seems to warrant that kindness or not? I think the world might be a whole lot sweeter if we did, don’t you?
No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.
Do not let mercy and kindness and truth leave you [instead let these qualities define you]; bind them [securely] around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.
So, as God’s own chosen people, who are holy [set apart, sanctified for His purpose] and well-beloved [by God Himself], put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience [which has the power to endure whatever injustice or unpleasantness comes, with good temper]; bearing graciously with one another, and willingly forgiving each other if one has a cause for complaint against another; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so should you forgive.