I spent the morning banking and grocery shopping. As I headed into the last store on my list I was feeling phyiscally sore and mentally listless from the ache in that bothersome thigh muscle that hit me only a half hour into my errands.
I headed for the cleaning supply department in the last store and there were a clerk and a customer standing right in front of the product I needed to purchase. There seemed to be some sort of argument going on between them...at least the customer was being argumentative, while the clerk, a sturdy young fellow, was maintaining his composure rather well in the midst of the customer's verbal assault. They stepped to one side for a second, just long enough for me to grab one of the last boxes of the product I had been searching for over the course of several weeks and in several other stores, but without success.
"Look, LOOK!!", screeched the customer! "That is the last of the product I am trying to buy and now that woman has taken it! Why didn't you hurry faster to contact the manager and get me my deal before SHE took my box of product???!!!!" I was going to ignore her and nurse my immediate thought of, "Tough luck for you sister, there are other boxes there for you and this one's MINE!", but then I noticed the sad and harried look on the young clerk's face and I couldn't stand to see him being treated that way. Rather than further escalate the tense situation by pointing out to her that there were three other boxes of "her" product toward the back of the shelf, I offered her the box I had just put into my cart.
"Excuse me madam." I said, causing her to be quiet long enough to turn around and look at me. "Please, take my box of product. I can live without it."
Her response was an angry, "HMMPH!" as she grabbed the box out of my hands and marched angrily away bearing the two boxes of product she was getting at a nearly steal of a price that she didn't actually qualify for as it turned out. In reality she had misread the pricing stickers and threw a fit when she had originally attempted to go through the cashier's line to pay for her boxes. and was charged full price. So, she had returned to the aisle, just in time to catch the poor shelf clerk completely unaware. Before I arrived she had apparently blasted that poor kid to Kingdom Come as he tried and tried to get the department manager to come to his aid.
Finally the manager had appeared and given his consent to let her have the discount she didn't qualify for, although the product actually on sale and the product she was buying were not the same, they were just situated next to each other on the shelf. The manager certainly didn't have to do that, but this fellow is BIG on customer service apparently and I hope his good will is not being taken advantage of by too many people!
The manager walked away and then the lady harangued the beleagured clerk all over again about how stupid he was, how long it had taken him to locate the manager and on and on. This is what I arrived in the middle of as I took what I thought was going to be my box of product and ended up giving it to her. I was so shocked at her uncalled for outrage at ME, that instead of high tailing it out of that aisle, I just stood there with my mouth gaping open.
After the lady, (O sorry, WOMAN. She was not acting like any sort of lady!), marched away in a huff, the clerk stood there and stared at me, big tears welling in his eyes. I felt terrible for him and very badly that my simple act of taking a box of product off the shelf had opened up an even worse verbal attack on him.
I told him I was very, very sorry he had experienced that and apologized for my inadvertent part in the disaster. He thanked me and then told me he is a Christian and that only Jesus is able to give him strength to deal with things like that. He told me it was very difficult to keep his temper, to not cry in frustration, but that he was silently praying the whole time so he could maintain control. I then identified myself as a Christian as well and told him there is no way I could keep a job like his because even though I have been a Christian many decades longer than he has been alive, my temper, as expressed too often in my big mouth and cutting sarcasm, is still a stumbling block for me. We talked for a short minute and then he returned to his job and I continued to shop.
When I went out to the parking lot, there he was again collecting abandoned carts that were rolling through the parking lot in the high wind. We had another short chat and we both came away feeling rather buoyed up by the unexpected chance to share what our common beliefs are doing to help us deal with the curves we get thrown in life. We are from different church traditions, but his present denomination is my former denomination, so we have lots in common.
This young man was quite an encouragement to me today. Lately I have been fighting with myself about a few things and just the act of running into a fellow believer in distress that I could talk to and encourage and be encouraged by seemed to lighten the load today.
Thank you Lord for that godly encounter in the middle of the grocery store! Your people are everywhere it seems, and meeting one of them today was a wonderful blessing. Please bless that young man for the way he lives out what he believes. It is so easy to lose track of your life commands when we are faced with opposition and anger from others. This fellow did not lose track of his spiritual values and provided a wonderful lesson to me!