I have been thinking about this off and on for a couple of weeks and I decided that I really just needed to write it down. A couple of weeks ago I was doing the grocery shopping while my son was at classical guitar and I was running late to pick him up. My teens don't have cell phones (whatever, they are expensive) and he knew there was a chance that I would be late but I wanted to be...not late. Maybe I just wanted to be able to bilocate or freeze time so I could get all the errands done. When it is a sixty mile round trip to get groceries (literally, that is the closest place), I try to make it a once a week thing. I head into town and while Raymond is in class, it is a mad dash to get to the store and the bank and to get feed or whatever errands there are and make it back home so I can cook dinner and we can do afternoon chores.
Sometimes it all goes according to plan and everything clicks into place. Sometimes it doesn't. Actually, most of the time I am barely holding it together and everything is late but at least almost everything is done. Generally speaking, when stacking appointments and errands that one must drive for, my day is pretty much a dumpster fire waiting to happen. One whiff of smoke, and panic sets in. I had a day like that recently. First, there were problems with the computer network for the cash registers. Then there were "operator errors". I had gotten in line behind a familiar cashier and then she clocked out, and a new cashier being trained took over. I was so frustrated. It took forever. She didn't know what she was doing and had a hard time bagging and just was out of her depth. The more frustrated she got, the worse it went. I couldn't escape because there were so many people behind me. When I left, it was late, and the bridge was up which meant that I couldn't get back across to guitar until the boat has passed and the bridge went down. Then when I came back, it was up again. My day was just going up in flames.
I complained bitterly to my son about my afternoon when I picked him up and he commiserated. I had complained that my favorite cashier was not working and we discussed how I walk back and forth and look for the ones I know will do the job quickly so that I could get on with my day. We went back and forth for several minutes until I suddenly realized what I was doing. I waited tables for a bit and worked as a cashier when I was young. It was awful. Hungry people are cranky people and people checking out, are that. Checked out. I hated being treated as a machine, as an extension of the cash register and not as a person on the other end. Yet, here I was, doing the same thing. I briefly considered writing about it and promptly forgot.
Then I made a quick stop at the store while in town for something else. I was in a hurry. I just needed two things and I really needed to get back home. I got in the wrong line. There was an elderly couple ahead of me and they wanted their things bagged a certain way and in a certain order and wanted the cashier to check the price on things as it rang up and then they could not figure out how to use the new chip reader with their new bank card. It was almost like a comedy routine, a video someone would post to Facebook and we would all start complaining because it was familiar. But, as difficult as it was, the cashier, who was really young, was so patient. She didn't apologize to the people behind in line, rather she thanked us for being so patient. Then she moved their cart so they could continue to look through their receipt as she checked out the customer in front of me, who made jokes at their expense. He was not overly unkind, but he did do it.
When I got home, I had plenty of miles and time to mull over the experience.This young woman running the cash register was a much better model for my children than I had been. She looked at those customers and saw people. The rest of us saw obstacles in our own individual paths. I don't want to be like that or for my children to be like that, but it is exactly what I am modeling. I picked up the phone and called the manager.
It took a while, she was busy, and when she took my call I am pretty sure she was expecting me to complain. Instead, I told her that I was really very impressed with the young woman at the register and how she handled the situation. I told her that I hoped someone would remember to treat my mother and grandmother so patiently. I do. Which means that I need to treat people that way.
When I was a young and overwhelmed mother, a seasoned veteran of motherhood once told me that she always tells her children to look at each person that they encounter as being made in the image and likeness of God. That's something. That is really something. I try to remember but I am weak and self absorbed but it does not take away from fundamentally what each person is. Every cashier, every customer, every pilot on a boat (are they called pilots?), they are each and all made in the image and likeness of God and I can't take that away, but I do fail to see it.
So, even though you will fail, make an effort to spend a day remembering that each person you meet is made in the image and likeness of God. I'll do it with you. We can keep doing it, day after day, and knowing that we will fail is okay. All those failures will add up to lots of successes. Each time we look at another person and see them not as obstacles, it will a good that we have put into this world.