(Watch You've Got Mail to understand what I mean.)
On my daily walk with the boys we pass a local pet store. To Noah's pure delight, we stop and admire the puppies prancing in the glass enclosures. Occasionally we go inside to check out the variety of other cuddly creatures. As we came upon the shop today, Noah got super excited and repeatedly asked to see the kitties. He loves kitties.
So I turned the double stroller 90 degrees and entered the little store. The smiling ladies who usually man the front counter were nowhere in sight. The place was altogether vacant. As I was explaining to Noah that the cat cages were empty because all the furry kitties had found nice homes, an unfamiliar woman emerged from the back of the store.
"Can I help you with something?" she asked.It took me a moment to realize the implication of her remark.
"Oh, no thank you," I replied. "We're just enjoying the animals."
"That's what zoos are for," she said sternly.
In an instant I was shocked and sad and angry.
I wanted to say...
"Excuse me? Do you seriously want to deprive an innocent child from the joy of marveling at a fluffy bunny or scaly snake because you're not sure our presence is going to improve your bottom line? You are a sad, bitter woman to say such a thing. My son loves animals. And today's browsing very well may have turned into tomorrow's buying, but you better believe that this is the last time I'm ever coming into your stinky store. Though I walk by here every day, when my sons gets his first goldfish or gofer snake, puppy or parakeet, I am going to trek on down to PetCo and happily give my patronage to a big-business chain instead of your sorry little independent excuse for a quaint small-town store. Good day."
In other words, I wanted to zing her.
Instead, I turned the stroller around and said,
"Thank you. Have a nice day."And walked out.
All the way home I replayed the conversation as it happened, and the one I had wanted to have. I honestly didn't feel better for having been polite instead of lashing back. I was so irritated that this lady's attitude was now going to deprive my little boy of a simple daily pleasure. I felt that she was rude and I wanted to repay her with rudeness. And as I walked away I wasn't sure why I didn't.
Then the words from the verse I had memorized earlier in the day came to mind:
Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. -Romans 13:8Huh, I thought. What's the application in this context? I'm not indebted to this salesperson. I don't owe her anything..."except the continuing debt to love."
Without forethought or intention, God had used his Word written on my heart to allow me to love this woman with my words...or lack thereof. Not because I'm amazing. (No, I wanted to zing her.) But because he is.
As I continued to reflect on the incident, I began to feel good about my response. Not only do I want to be a good example for my boys, but I also want to be a good representative of the God I love and live for.
What if I would have lashed back with the verbal sewage in my mind and then (somehow) been asked by the woman, Are you a Christian? I would have undoubtedly felt ashamed. Or what if she was having a horrible day? What if she had just lost her dad or was in the middle of a personal crisis or was under financial stress and a harsh word was her unfortunate way with dealing with it all? Though I didn't feel it in that moment, I'm so thankful that God's love and compassion somehow permeated my heart and made it to my mouth so that my words did not offend.
* * *
Later in the day I became doubly thankful God helped me hold my tongue...
When my husband got home from work I shared the incident with him. He suggested I inform the store owner of the encounter so they're aware of their employee's poor conduct. I thought that was a good idea and told him I'd think about it. But later when I was in the other room he decided to call on my behalf to relieve me of the burden.
He ended up speaking with the woman who identified herself as the store manager and acknowledged that she matched the physical description I gave.
He explained what was said. She was completely apologetic. She didn't remember saying that and said that she loved kids and welcomed all visitors into the store. She felt terrible that I had somehow misunderstood her and assured that she would never intentionally say that and was so sorry if she hurt my feelings. She asked that I please come back anytime I'd like.
* * *
I honestly don't think I misheard her.
But she sounded very genuine.
And really, it doesn't matter who is right.
Someday soon...maybe tomorrow...I'll go back to the pet shop.
If she's there, I'll talk to her.
And I'll trust God to lead me through the conversation.
With God as my guide, no zingers needed.