At the clothing store the other day, I approached a cashier who was ringing up some items. Since there was no customer in sight, I asked her if she was buying those clothes for herself. She laughed and said, “I wish! No, these are for a customer. She was just here… I’m not sure where she went.” She shrugged apologetically and looked around.
After several minutes, a lady speaking loudly on the phone sauntered back over and plopped a pair of shoes on the counter to add to her order. While she was still on the phone, the cashier asked if she had any coupons. “No,” she said. “Do you have one for me?” The cashier did have a store coupon and deducted 15%, which mildly annoyed me. The customer didn’t thank her, and I thought that would have been the least she could have done, considering that she had kept the cashier and the other customers waiting all that time.
She finally did get off her phone, but wanted an additional discount, so she decided to open a store charge card, which would get her an additional 10% off. “I know I won’t be approved; I just want the discount.” This was going to be a long wait.
At that point, another cashier opened and said, “Next customer in line, please.” As I picked up my clothing to schlep over to the other cashier’s counter, the woman behind me started toward the newly opened cashier. I walked past her and put my clothes on the counter. “Next customer. That would be me,” I said firmly.
“Oh, I didn’t realize!” she said. Right, I thought.
It’s so easy to be cynical and focus on these small infractions, but actually, I must have encountered a couple of dozen people I didn’t know that day and each and every one of them was perfectly pleasant. Some went out of their way to help me.
So even though I was mildly annoyed by two people who really should know better, it’s quite possible that they really didn’t. That is to say, maybe they really didn’t think they’d done anything wrong. I decided it would make more sense to pray for them than to continue to seethe and stew, thus ruining the rest of an otherwise wonderful day.
God has been merciful to me as I’ve struggled with doubt through the years, and many times I’ve done things that He might have shaken His head at, saying, “she should really know better.”
My son is 14 and even though he doesn’t share my faith, he does have a good sense of right and wrong. He also knows the difference between a mountain and a molehill… something I don’t always seem to know. Like that time we went to the store to get some groceries.
“Well! How about that!” I said as we walked to the car. “Can you believe this jamoch? He parked his car so close to mine that I can’t get to the trunk.”
But it was a tight parking lot with a limited number of spaces, and his car was an SUV, so they tend to really fill up a space.
“Do you think he did it on purpose, Ma?” my son asked innocently. “Did he do it to annoy you?”
“Well, no, but….”
“Then why don’t you forgive him?”
Whoa. That stopped me, mid-rant. I was the one always going on about giving people a second chance and here he was, pointing out something I should have already known.
Just as we’ve seen on the evening news, we tend to focus on the people who are doing things they shouldn’t be doing, and saying a collective, “Well! How dare they do that!” But most of the people we encounter really want the same things we want out of life: to take care of ourselves and our families, to do our jobs, to worship (or not) as we see fit, and to move freely in the world without interference.
Life is so much better when we focus on positive things, and expect that everyone we meet is trying their best. It may not be what we would do, but for all we know, it’s all they can give. After all, if we’ve been forgiven, it’s really not too much to ask that we forgive others now and again. Prayer is really a panacea, and grace is always there – to give and to receive - even on a hectic day in a crowded world.