Thursday, September 26, 2013

What started as a quick trip to the drug store...

About a week ago, I was babysitting late for the family I work for. The following day was my boss's birthday, so after dinner I dragged the 2 kids to the nearest drug store in search of a card.
Yes, I know, I was ridiculously last minute.

We perused the card section and they "helped" choose the good ones. Anyone who has gone card shopping with children can relate to this: They could not understand why I didn't want to get the adorable puppy dog card "that is just so cute".  The first line read "to my love, on your birthday."  Thankfully I talked them out of it, but I digress. 

I was in a bit of a hurry, wanting to get home and get the bedtime routine underway; but apparently I was not the only evening drug store shopper.  The 2nd cashier was on her break, so the long line loomed over the lone fidgety cashier as we all waited, more or less, patiently. 

You could see the relief in the mans eyes when his co-worker returned from her break and announced she could help the next in line.  I, at this point, was the next in line.  Me with my one measly item, trapped behind the woman who apparently did all her grocery shopping, maybe for the month, at this store. 
Relieved to not have to wait on her, I rounded up the kiddos and began making my way to the newly opened check-out line. The friendly, business-like man behind me stepped out of the way to let our little herd through. The rather tattered woman behind him, however, was not feeling as generous. She side stepped the man and began hurrying to beat me to the register.  I was a little taken aback since she had only just walked up to the line minutes before, but I hardly had time to react before the man interjected, holding his arm out to stop the woman from proceeding. "Excuse me ma'am" he said "this lady was next in line, let's show some respect."  I continued to the register, never expecting what was to follow. 

The woman shoved the man out of the way (she was not a small woman, and had the girth to push, just about anyone, around) and told him, loudly, in words I will not repeat, that he needed to mind his own business and let her through. 

I was willing to step aside, clearly she was in more of a hurry than I ever would be.  Of curse, things didn't pan out as simply as that.  The man, bless him, repeated his remark about showing respect and waiting her turn, never raising his voice, but clearly as shocked as I was by her reaction. 

The woman began aggressively throwing herself forward.  I jumped out of the way and corralled the kids, wanting this to end but knowing it would be unwise to interfere.  She could eat all three of us for lunch, and might have, if provoked. 

We now had the attention of the entire store. 

The man began fighting her off and, truly holding her back from, at this point, attacking me and the kids. She began yelling and cussing at the man, the store - the world really.  He threatened to call the police and advised her to stop embarrassing herself.  She cussed more, having finally stopped fighting, and was directing her angry words at whoever would listen.  I was speechless, the kids were terrified, and frozen with looks of confusion aimed at the irate woman.  The poor cashier had no idea what to do. 

A million things were racing through my head: Do I try and say anything and risk accelerating her anger and directing it at me, or worse, the kids?!  Do I ignore it, and not show adequate appreciation for what this man has just done for me?  Do I drop the card and hurriedly leave the store terrified and hurt, like I wanted to do but knew I shouldn't?

I took a breath.

I told the kids to wait at the end, ensuring they were out of any line of fire.  I paid for the card and smiled reassuringly at the mortified young cashier.  The cursing continued and I turned and walked out of the drug-store as the kids began asking questions: "What happened?"  "Why did she say those things?" 
What was I going to say to them?  How was I supposed to explain something like that?  I couldn't.  It was irrational and unexplainable in a way. 

The moment I was outside of those sliding doors I knelt down with the kids and, to my surprise, began crying.  I hugged them close and told them I was so sorry they had heard those words and seen that anger.  They giggled, I was all but sobbing at this point.  Why could I not hold it together?  I told them she was having a bad day just like we sometimes have bad days.  "We've never heard someone use words like that" one said.  I cried harder; So thankful that it was true. 
"You're right," I said "we don't say those words, even when we're mad." 
"Okay!" I put on my sunglasses, thank goodness I still had them on my head even though it was dusky.  "Let's go home."

I cried the whole way home.  Luckily, it was Q&A time so I didn't have to say a lot. They needed to see me cry, they needed to see I was hurt, but they didn't need to see me cry this long. 
As I drove, I answered their questions, and we talked it out until they were content with the answers. 

The kids went to bed a half an hour late.  I could not pull myself together.  
Okay. I had to pull myself together. PJs on. Teeth brushed. Books read. Prayers said. Kisses given. Doors shut. Deep breath. 

I sat down to think.
I revisited the event and the car ride home and my hundreds of tears. 
I couldn't even begin to articulate why I been so affected by this.  My feelings weren't hurt.  I wasn't really ever even directly spoken too.  So why was I such a puddle?  At the end of my thinking this is what I had come up with. 

1. I was humiliated and miserable that those two children had just bore witness to an outrage of anger and deep rooted sadness like nothing they had ever seen. The whole time we had been in the store I cringed at every four-letter word thrown so casually yet, maliciously in our direction.  I didn't want them to ever hear anger like that.  I want them to be filled with happiness and inocence and love.  
Thankfully, it provided a teaching moment and we were able to discuss how it feels when people yell at you, and how we don't want to make others feel that way.  I told them that some people are just angry and it doesn't mean you did anything to deserve it.  We have to love those people anyways because they, more than anyone, need a friend.  They understood on their 5 year old level. Anger, love, friends. They were satisfied with that answer.  

2. I was so deeply saddened, in a way that I cannot put into words, at seeing a human being so truly angry at the world.  Deep, heart felt anger- obviously not directed at anyone in that drug-store, maybe not even anyone at all.  It was anger at life, maybe anger at God.  So much anger that it is with her all the time and ready to explode.  Perhaps she had a terrible day.  We've all been there.  I am at the top of the list when it comes to being guilty of over reacting or lashing out.  I've yelled at people I love, I've yelled at my dog, I've yelled at nameless, faceless cars that even thought about pulling in front of me.  I cannot and am not judging her.  Perhaps that moment was a terrible and inadequate reflection of her life, just like my bad days are of mine. But it broke my heart, and made me so completely thankful that I can carry the joy of The Lord in my heart and know that, no matter how many bad days I have, God is my peace, my inner joy, and he is faithful. 

John 14:27
I am leaving you with a gift- peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don't be troubled or afraid. 

Maybe I handled it wrong.  Maybe I should have done something, said something.  I didn't.  It was all I could do to not do the wrong thing.  I am thankful for that man.  He showed kindness and respect to a complete stranger and stood up for me when others didn't.  I don't think he had any idea what he was stepping into, and perhaps his good deed and true words were lost on the woman. But then again, perhaps not. 

I just wanted to share this because it made me think about how thankful I am for who I am able to be, through God's grace and love, and I'm glad I don't have to wonder who I would be without him. 

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