I was standing behind him in a crowded grocery store on my lunch hour. We were in the line for the personal checkout — the one where you scan your own items and pay electronically.
I had just a few items in my cart — a few last minute Thanksgiving ingredients and a cup of soup for lunch. I barely noticed him at first. He was clad in dress pants and sport coat, and I only really acknowledged him because I noticed he had opened his bag of kettle cooked jalapeño chips and he was crunching away.
As I waited, I noticed that our line was rather long and I was blocking the entrance to the checkout lane next to us, so I tried to maneuver my cart to create an opening. When I did this, I came within inches of bumping Mr. Jalapeño, which I wouldn’t have known if he hadn’t said, somewhat loudly and in an irritated tone, “What’s happening here?” as he waved his arm in my direction without turning his head to look at me.
“Oh, I apologize,” I offered, “I was just trying to get out of the–“
He cut me off by flinging his hand into the air, again not looking in my direction, signaling nonverbally, “We’re done here.”
Well, alrighty then, I thought, but I said no more. Sure, internally, I muttered, “Sheesh, what’s got your panties in a knot?” as I watched him walk forward to the next open checkout to pay for the remaining crumbs in the wrinkled chip bag he clutched in his hand, but I didn’t let any sounds come out of my mouth. His words, and that brief gesture, had stung me. I instinctively wanted to sting back.
It took me about five minutes to scroll through all the replies I could have given him as I paid for my items, walked to my car, and put my items in the trunk. Then I snapped myself out of it and started reciting the phrases that have gotten me through many such situations.
His behavior says more about him than it says about me…I have no idea what this man has gone through this morning or what internal battles he’s facing… Lord, have mercy on him, encourage him, surprise him.
As I sat down in my car and turned the key, I felt my adrenaline subsiding. My mantra was working. I checked my rearview mirror and backed my car out of the parking space. Then, as I shifted from reverse to drive, I noticed another car that had just backed out of her space. We’d have to jockey a bit to get around each other, so I backed up, slid over, and shifted back into drive. As we approached one another, to make our way out of the parking lot, I raised my hand to smile and wave a greeting.
However, I saw no reciprocation. Instead, I saw a face drawn back in a stressful expression. Her mouth was moving, but it was not smiling. She was clearly upset.
Oh, dear. I thought. Here we go again.
Her behavior says more about her than it says about me…I have no idea what she has been through this morning or what internal battles she’s facing… Lord, have mercy on her, encourage her, surprise her.
‘Tis the season, my friends — the season of the Grinch.
And, hey, no judgment — I, myself, have been the Grinch.
I have sneered, I have muttered, I have glared, and I have sputtered.
What with all the pressure to find the right presents, make the best meals, get to the parties, and find the best deals, a person could find herself bogged down and annoyed; she could feel overwhelmed, under-sourced, and un-joyed.
(I can’t stop; I promise, I can’t.)
And in this season of giving, celebration, and love, she could find herself fuming and wanting to shove.
So, dear ones, if you, as you wander about, find yourself cheerful and happy, and light on your toes, have mercy on those who are feeling the woes. When they glare, give wide berth, when they sputter, breathe deep. Don’t retaliate, lash back, say harsh words, or weep.
Just remember that underneath all of their sass, these grinches have hearts; they have feelings, alas, they are burdened by struggles, by wounds sometimes deep. If they could, they’d be springing through tasks like young sheep. But they can’t. Not now, but they might again, soon. So hope for them, pray for them, give them some room.
Hurt people hurt people. That’s what they do.
They’ll find their way back. I did, so did you.
In the season of giving, of love, and of hope, let’s make it our business to help others cope. Let’s keep our eyes open, let’s slow down our roll, let’s open our hearts, let’s make peace our goal.
It might make a difference. It might; it might not. But if loving and caring is all that we’ve got, let’s use it, let’s share it, let’s hope for the best. God, we can trust, will take care of the rest.
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another.”Ephesians 4:32