Standing in line at the post office, I ran through my list of to-do’s while staring blankly at the rows of P.O. boxes. The woman in front of me was trying her best to understand how to work the self-serve kiosk.
She was doing okay, but was slow – well, slower than what I wanted.
I’ve worked the kiosk dozens of times at least and can do it with my eyes closed. I began to get restless and thought about offering her help, but she didn’t need help. She just needed a little extra time.
Was I going to be gracious and wait patiently, or would I begin to do the unspoken motions of impatience – shifting my weight, an obnoxious sigh, making some borderline rude comment to the person behind me or offering her “help” with a curt tone that is obvious more about helping myself get out of there more quickly than truly helping her mail her boxes.
We all know these actions. We’ve done them and they’ve been done to us.
I closed my eyes and took a deep, silent breath.
“Marie!” a voice called.
It startled me and I opened my eyes to see a woman coming through the doors. She called again to the older woman who was studying each kiosk screen very carefully.
“Marie! How are you! It’s so good to see you.”
The older woman, obviously Marie, looked up from the kiosk and smiled. She was a little rattled having been shaken out of her deep concentration, but was delighted to see her friend. Her voice was soft. Her smile, warm. It was easy to see she was a kind soul.
The two exchanged a brief hello before Marie returned her focus to the kiosk.
As I stood waiting my turn, I thought about what just happened. I was bent on my to-do list. Hustle, hustle, hustle. My day, my time, my list, my errands.
I saw Marie as an object, not a person.
She was holding up my day, my time, my list, my errands.
The very moment another person recognized her as a person, calling her by name and engaging her in brief conversation, I was immediately able to see her as a person, not an object.
She is a person who has seen decades of life and has had countless experiences tucked behind her thick glasses and droopy overcoat.
I asked myself if my initial feelings toward Marie as an object would have been different if she were my neighbor walking by my home; if she was introduced to me through a friend at a restaurant; was having a hard time carrying groceries to her car and needed help.
Of course I would have responded differently! She would have been a person in each of those circumstances. But because she was the obstacle in the way of my day, she was an object, and that justified my feelings of impatience.
Suddenly, my impatience melted and my heart warmed up to her. I realized she didn’t want to spend her time delayed at the post office any more than I did. She was doing the best she could.
She finished up and it was my turn. I’m grateful God showed me, once again, how easy it is to treat people as objects and how hurtful that can be to others.
Just before leaving, I heard the postal clerk ask a customer, “Would you like religious stamps or not so much?”
The woman replied, “Not so much.”
Hmm. I felt a wave of relief wash over me that I had not let my impatience get the better of me, lest I give a black eye to Christ as a believer.
People are watching and looking and hoping for the real deal. They want to see believers working out their salvation in a slow line at the post office, in heavy traffic when they’re late, dealing with a screaming toddler, returning an item without a receipt, and in every other annoying or inconvenient circumstance way more than they want to see us clustered in our Christian groups sequestered from society.
I am going to remember Marie and the woman who wanted the “not so much” stamps the rest of this holiday season.
My faith may be real, but so are my emotions and weaknesses. Christians aren’t perfect by any stretch, but we do have the choice to choose how we are going to – respond in faith or react out of emotion and weakness.
This Christmas season, let’s be sensitive to others around us. It benefits them and holds us accountable, which is a good thing.
Let’s look for opportunities to bless the Marie’s and be an example for the “not so much.”
On our own we can’t do this. We’re organic, sinful creatures. But with Christ we can do everything as He gives us strength to do it (Philippians 4:13).
Let’s invite Christ into our errands, daily grind and grunt work Monday – Saturday just as much as we invite Him into our worship and Bible studies on Sundays.
Make the most of the opportunities we are given. We never know when they are truly divine appointments.