I meet a lot of different people in my job at my favorite big box hardware store. It can be easy to go to two extremes for me… socialize with all of the people who come into the store and engage them in conversation which, would be MY choice or, focus on my work and consider the non stop requests for assistance as an Indiana sweat bee circling my head as I try to swat them.
You’re probably thinking if I don’t like the job to move on, but, I genuinely DO love people and I think of the job as the nuisance and the people like the bright spot in my day. Except for today it was challenging.
I was up on a ladder today doing inventory on some chandeliers that are hung up on the lighting aisle when the guy approached my ladder to ask me for help. I had heard him walking down the aisle long before he got to me…cursing and talking to someone on his phone. It was a good thing I heard him before he got there, because I had a feeling there was going to be trouble, so I held on to the ladder as his voice approached.
Arriving at the location where I was perched; instead of saying “excuse me!” he decided to shake the ladder at its base and shout “HEY!” in order to get my attention. At 62, being over 8 feet off the ground with concrete as the floor, the prospect of falling is not a good one. I was a gymnast as a kid at 18 but there would be no graceful dismount from this height and…by the way that was 42 years ago!
Holding on tightly, I turned my head in his direction and scowled. I was not inclined to be friendly to a 40 something guy who was cavalier with my safety. Instead of “What can I do for you?” I came down the ladder and stood face to face with him. In my younger and more foolish days, I would have thrown down…and job be damned, but I looked at him in the eyes and heard the quiet voice inside say, “self-control Doug…self-control…” so I said, “How can I help sir?”
Expletives came pouring out of his mouth…”No employees anywhere…#@%&!…I need help!” My inner smart ass said, “you sure do dude!” (Sorry readers, just being authentic.) Asking him what he was looking for, he stated the item he needed, which; just happened to be directly behind him. I leaned to his left and fetched the item of the shelf behind him and handed it to him. He cursed again…this time, evidently with joy (cursing with joy?), and said: “You must be Mr. Big Box Store himself” (no he didn’t say “Big Box”, he named the store). I asked if that was all he needed and he said “Yeah, that’s it…I guess you can scurry up your ladder and resume dusting!” As he turned to leave he got a phone call and began cursing again…walking toward the checkout.
In my experience, every time I have run into someone with a big temper, there has almost always been an opportunity to either get angry with them or just move in the opposite spirit. You’ll remember if you read my posts that I once was approached while sitting in the cab of my truck at a stoplight by a guy with a clenched fist wanting to hit me because I was playing “Midnight Train to Georgia” in my truck and he thought I was smiling at his girlfriend to flirt with her. When I listened patiently to him, he relaxed and ended up apologizing. Today, I was grateful I kept my cool because I can be get irked to the point of just giving it right back to a smart mouth. I really have to use self-control.
As the man was walking out, it was time for lunch and I was going to the convenience store right in front of the Big Box store to get a big bottle of water. As I walked out of the convenience store with my water, I heard a guy cursing and looked up and saw the same guy kicking the tire of his car, and slamming the car door to open the hood of his car. His pinpoint cotton French cuffs had gotten dirt on them as he tried to twist the cable on his battery. Evidently, his battery was dead. Guess who he was parked next to?
This past Christmas I had gifted myself a battery jumper, that I carry in my back seat in my truck. Without asking permission, and seeing he was trapped in a prison of anger, I walked to my truck right next to him. He looked at me, wondering what I was doing out next to HIS car and watched to make sure I didn’t ding his car door with my truck door. He cursed again, this time slamming his fist down on the plastic cowl that was over his engine.
I took my jumper box, put it lightly on his fender, attached the jumper cables and said, “Go turn your key” All this time he had just looked at me…not saying a word. His car started immediately. Getting out of his car, he looked at me smiling and said, “You must be a F@#%$! Angel dude!” I hate to say it, but I didn’t even acknowledge his comment with a look, I just unhooked the jumper box from his car and walked back to my truck to put it away.
As I closed my door, I looked at him and he was quietly watching me. As I walked away, he shouted, “Hey, let me give you some money!” I finally looked at him and said, “You are a very angry man…and you were shown a lot of mercy just now…you need to get to the bottom of your anger. He walked toward me…and I figured, “Well Doug, you are going to get hit!” Instead he said, “My wife left me…and took my 14-year-old daughter…” Now that my paradigm was changed, I told him, “The very God you curse jumped your car today…and instead of cursing him, He can redeem your situation.” I turned and walked away.
After arriving back in the store, I looked behind me and he sat quietly at the steering wheel of his car…just staring out of the windshield.
This is why the Lord gave us the Fruit of the Spirit…which I used very poorly, because I admit it, I was ticked off at this guy. But the Lord will use whatever meager offering we have to reach the dying in this world. Moving in compassion is often accompanied by taking risks…