Standing at the counter of my favorite coffee shop early one morning, I was taken aback when a man barged in front of me boldly stating “I called in my order!” He proceeded to interrupt me and confuse the attentive young gal working at the counter. She looked to me and I whispered “It’s okay.” She quickly and thoughtfully finished his called-in order which included sandwiches, danish and coffee. The man placed stacks of coins on the counter to pay, then stomped out in anger saying “I’ll be right back” when he realized that he did not have enough money to pay for his food. After he had finally left the shop, the patient young girl turned to me and sincerely apologized. “Please don’t apologize, you did nothing wrong” I said. “It’s unfortunate that some people don’t know how to act with respect and kindness.” She quickly got my coffee, preparing it just right, and I left the shop by giving her a warm smile and a good tip. Her actions were admirable in such a tough situation.
Do you ever struggle when someone is rude or unkind to you? I certainly do and tried hard not to say something to the man in the coffee shop this morning. I wanted to shout: “Excuse me, please wait your turn!” or “Hold on, you are being rude!” But something deep inside prevented me from doing so. It was a little voice that spoke words of truth. This voice had been nurtured over a lifetime and sounded very much like the voice of my courageous mom. Joan was a woman of peace. She would often turn a situation around and look at the opposite side of it for meaning. For example, in the case of the man this morning, she would have offered something like “perhaps this man just learned that he lost his job or perhaps his wife is sick or perhaps his mom died?” She always felt that it was much healthier to repay rudeness with kindness. Joan was a happy woman who walked the path of love in every facet of her life – she loved the Lord with all her heart and loved her neighbor as herself.
One of my favorite scripture passages is the story of the Good Samaritan. In this famous parable, Jesus challenges us to see all people as our neighbors – especially folks who are different. As the story goes, many “holy” people passed by a helpless man who had been robbed and stripped on his way to Jerusalem. These people left the man to die. But then a Samaritan passed by the stricken man and helped him out of compassion, without any hope of a reward. The example of the Samaritan is one we should all follow. “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:37)
Perhaps we can all challenge ourselves to “Go and do likewise” this week. Who are the people in our lives that may need love and compassion? Like the man in the coffee shop, some folks are not easy to love. But God calls us to love without boundaries. Let’s not pass by anyone on the road of life – stop and care for every person whom God places in our midst. Like my mother Joan, we will be happier and more peaceful people when we live in God’s love and mercy every day.