Bear one anothers burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
- Galatians 6:2
Had I arrived at the garden center at a busier time, or when I was in a hurry to get away, I might not have exchanged more than a hello with the lady at the check-out counter. But when I couldnt find what I needed by myself, she offered to walk the block-long aisle with me. She found the item right away, and I found out she had more than customer relations on her mind.
Its almost time to go home, she said, glancing at her watch. I really shouldnt be working today, but they couldnt get anyone to take my place. I didnt want to leave my daughter alone.
After some probing, I learned about the accident - brain-damaged, the doctor said.
She had just started a new job theres just the two of us. My neighbor promised to look in on her today, but I dont know what Im going to do tomorrow.
I promised to pray for her daughter, and for her, and left the store with my purchase wrapped in a heavy heart.
Oh, youre prettier than your picture. It wasnt hard to start a conversation with the receptionist at the medical clinic after that, or to shift the topic from my ID card to what was on her mind. My file told her I was divorced; she told me hers was pending.
Its an awful time for me right now, she said, sadness replacing her earlier cheer.
Bonnie was already past 40 when she learned she was pregnant with her third child. Though apprehensive, the family was ecstatic with the news. They knew children were a blessing from God - especially blessed in their case, since their first child had died in a farm accident years before. Husband, wife, and 12-year-old daughter eagerly awaited the babys birth.
Announcing the arrival of Bethany Grace, a precious baby girl; weight 6 pounds, one ounce; 19 inches long. What the birth announcement didnt say, and I didnt learn until after I mailed my congratulatory card: Precious Bethany Grace also had Downs Syndrome.
The secretarys smile couldnt hide the tears she struggled to control. I overcame my fear of intrusion and asked her what was wrong.
Oh, its my child! she sobbed. "I thought she was spending the night with a friend, but they both sneaked out to an all-night party. There were boys, and beer and I had no idea where she was all night." She dropped her head in her hands and added, Of all my children she was my ace in the hole, my good student - everything. I feel like such a failure as a parent.
When all these encounters happened within the space of 4 or 5 days, I couldnt help but think of a phrase from a sermon by former Evans Baptist Church pastor Al Miller some years ago. Be careful, he said, because everyone you meet is fighting a battle. Rev. Millers sermon was an echo of the long-ago advice given by the Apostle Paul to the Galatian church (6:2).
Be careful, they both seemed to say, and patient. Be willing to overlook the gruff clerk, the impatient supervisor or careless employee, the uncooperative spouse or disobedient child, and other hurts we assume because of the actions of someone else.
Often, as Rev. Miller explained, another persons behavior has nothing to do with you at all. Whats on their mind is just too consuming for them to think about their effect on you. At times like that, they need your kindness more than you need theirs.
Oh, I wish I could say I always follow this advice, but I wouldnt be telling the truth if I did.
But once in a while, like when Im in the midst of the events I mentioned above, I remember - and pass along today - the Galatians scripture, an old Sunday School memory verse about being kind to one another (Ephesians 4:32), or Pauls similar advice to the Romans (12:15) to rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.
Sometimes, its nice to know others are following that advice for me.
(Barbara Seaborn is a local free-lance writer. E-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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