Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Lesson In A Smile

I’m not sure who I had living in my heart yesterday but she was not walking a path of peace and loving kindness. You see this doddering fat older man with an overflowing cart of crap he didn’t need cut me off as I was going to be the very next person in the line behind someone with only three items. I was all “Score!” and chest bumping myself because I had also found a great parking place near the front doors and was able to finagle the big boat van into it without a lot of parking and reparking. I found everything I needed easily without any questioning prices or comparisions and I stayed on task the whole way through so when this guy obliviously toddled in front of me and it harshed my whole mellow. I needed that mellow because almost up until that point, I had spent the afternoon nagging my sons to just do their chores and stop whining about it. In fact, the drama surrounding the dishwasher and light cleaning duties were why I was being so pushy because I stopped at the store on my way to a little celebration at the salt mines and stood every chance of being late.

So I got stuck behind this guy who probably didn’t have a life because why would some one wear ratty looking sweat pants in 90 degree heat with beat up old shower shoes and why else would anyone move that slow unless they didn’t have someplace to go. Like me. I had somewhere to go. Of course all my tappy-footed fuming and glaring at him through my sunglasses thinking all sorts of uncharitable thoughts about how rude he was to just walk in front of me without noticing I had fewer items. And how dare he miss the fact I was moving quickly because my life is much more important and meaningful than his so I should be allowed to go ahead of him. Finally, I was obviously dressed for something other than a trip to Walmart. Because, really? If I wear a fancy blouse and silk cigarette pants to shop at Walmart, I must be worse off than he is… And then my uncharitable voice went for the passive-aggressive and I called one of my coworkers and told her in a very loud voice I would be late because the lines at the store were really long and someone was rude enough to cut in front of me. The cashier looked over at me when I was talking to my friend, just a quick glance, probably noticing my cart wasn’t terribly full and no doubt noticing my impatient demeanor and automatically bracing herself for an abrupt and rude customer.

When this man finally finished his transaction, dithering over his change and receipt and then pausing to exchange pleasantries with the cashier it was my turn and the clock in my head stopped ticking: goingtobelategoingtobelategoingtobelate. I could breathe a little easier and it was my turn. I looked up at the cashier noticing her beautiful smile and a warm spirit radiating through it. I was suddenly swept up in her quiet energy and felt myself further slow down and a spontaneous genuine smile spread across my face. smile and not a polite return-of-the-smile smile. I noticed her name was a lovely old fashioned name you don’t see very often and asked if she went by the shortened version or the long version. She told me she didn’t like the shortened version very much and pronounced it slowly making it even prettier. Grace went by another name yesterday and it was Beatrice.

After I slithered back to the car, thoroughly ashamed of my childish behavior. Murmering a little prayer of “Sorry I’m such an asshat God. Can you help me?“ I switched on the radio. A song was playing which described how someone had been lost and doing bad things discovered grace and his life was turned around and away from that person he had been before. The way this guy described his life he had been a pretty bad guy, not just suffering from a momentary lapse of human kindness. It made me remember I can moment by moment change my heart and my outlook. I also realized grace doesn’t have to be gigantic or have long term life changing repricutions, and no matter how big or small, the moment just after I have been transformed by God’s grace I am shiny like a baby just out of a bath. A baby who usually runs out of the bath and within five minutes or so is besmirched with the grim of day to day living as a human being.

Thank you Beatrice, I needed this wake up call. Yesterday was hardly the worst day of my life but it wasn’t terribly easy either. The lesson in your smile will be what I remember and not my petty disappointments.

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