Well, once again I was out there in the world trying to follow a Call, and managed to hurt someone’s feelings. In the midst of a very bad day health-wise, in the middle of a tough week in the middle of a tough month…. I accepted an invitation to sneak into a lunch line….. where I convinced a dear and sweet lady– a fellow workshop participant– that a white person had Done It Again. Then I muffed the apology I knew I owed her.
I think that we Episcopalians sometimes think that as long as we are still “thinking,” as I assured her I would be doing for some time, we have done no real harm. (She was not an Episcoplian, and she was having as hard a day as I was, I am sure)…. I could trace back the “reason” for my rudeness all the way back to the strokes that slowed my response when she quietly tried to tell me of my mistake… but I’m pretty sure that even if I hunt that rabbit to the farthest end of the hole (“I just should have stayed home!”), I was in the wrong.
How could she have known what I went through to get to that workshop? Or what it really cost me, on so many levels, to be there? Or how many people had made it possible?
Why was it her responsibility to realize that in a thoughtless moment, I was unconsciously following norms established at another, similar workshop she had not attended? I was so hungry– but if her weak health that day was invisible to me, why did I assume that she might see mine?
A friend likes to send me inspiring emails. Today’s posed a neat “case study” in moral vs. ethical theology:
Subject: THE BRICK
A young and successful executive was traveling down a neighborhood street, going a bit too fast in his new Jaguar. He was watching for kids darting out from between parked cars, and slowed down when he thought he saw something.
As his car passed, no children appeared. Instead, a brick smashed into the Jag’s side door!
He slammed on the brakes and backed the Jag back to the spot where the brick had been thrown. The angry driver then jumped out of the car, grabbed the nearest kid, and pushed him up against a parked car shouting, ‘What was that all about and who are you? Just what the heck are you doing? That’s a new car and that brick you threw is going to cost a lot of money. Why did you do it?’
The young boy was apologetic. ‘Please, mister…please, I’m sorry but I didn’t know what else to do,’ he pleaded. ‘I threw the brick because no one else would stop…’ With tears dripping down his face and off his chin, the youth pointed to a spot just around a parked car. ‘It’s my brother,’ he said. ‘He rolled off the curb and fell out of his wheelchair and I can’t lift him up.’
Now sobbing, the boy asked the stunned executive, ‘Would you please help me get him back into his wheelchair? He’s hurt and he’s too heavy for me.’
Moved beyond words, the driver tried to swallow the rapidly swelling lump in his throat. He hurriedly lifted the handicapped boy back into the wheelchair, then took out a linen handkerchief and dabbed at the fresh scrapes and cuts. A quick look told him everything was going to be okay. ‘Thank you and may God bless you,’ the grateful child told the stranger.
Too shook up for words, the man simply watched the boy push his wheelchair-bound brother down the sidewalk toward their home.
It was a long, slow walk back to the Jaguar. The damage was very noticeable, but the driver never bothered to repair the dented side door. He kept the dent there to remind him of this message: ‘Don’t go through life so fast that someone has to throw a brick at you to get your attention!’
God whispers in our souls and speaks to our hearts. Sometimes when we don’t have time to listen, He has to throw a brick at us. It’s our choice to listen or not.
It IS a neat story…. and for a minute, I felt better about that lunchline thing. But somebody still has to fix that car. Someone still has to repair the budding relationship I harmed. And that would be…. whoever has the first chance to do it.
Ah well, next time maybe there will be room at the lady’s table for me to sit down and talk it over. Or better yet, listen till she’s done telling me how bad she felt when I did that.
I hope THAT part of the story is covered by the email’s second section:
“If God had a refrigerator, your picture would be on it. If He had a wallet, your photo would be in it. He sends you flowers every spring. He sends you a sunrise every morning Face it, friend – He is crazy about you! God didn’t promise days without pain, laughter without sorrow, or sun without rain– but He did promise strength for the day, comfort for the tears, and light for the way. If God brings you to it, He will bring you through it.”
Please God, help me if I get another chance with that beautiful woman. Help us all! We’re all holding bricks, seen or unseen, and we’re all falling out of our chairs at the same time, seen or unseen. And no one I know is driving a Jaguar, but by golly, bricks are bricks!