I thought it was to be a normal Monday morning, which is to say, hectic. I was pulling orders as rapidly as the constantly ringing telephone would allow, but was falling behind, nonetheless. I noticed the beat up pickup truck pulling up to the front of the store, but ignored it as I always try to do before our doors are unlocked at noon daily. Speaking on the phone to a customer who had not a clue of what she wanted, for once I was glad to be obviously occupied as the aging man peered in the window. He stood there in his shirt sleeves, unfazed by the cool temperatures or by the sign on the door which clearly proclaimed the business hours: Noon to 5:30 Monday through Friday. I knew he was waiting for me to hang up the phone, but the woman droned on and on about her plans for the products she wasn’t sure she would be buying today. Fifteen minutes later, with no sale made, I hung up the phone and glanced at the front window. The man was facing away from me, deep in conversation on his cell phone. I stepped away from my desk and made my escape to the back office to wait him out.
It was 10:30! We didn’t open for another hour and a half and I wasn’t going to interrupt my busy schedule for someone to come in and “look around”. A moment later, his conversation finished, the man noticed that I was no longer at my desk or on the phone. “KNOCK, KNOCK, KNOCK!” The loud rapping on the window resounded through the deserted building. I ignored it. Again, and again, and still again, the rapping sounded…the persistent fellow was not giving up. Resigned to a confrontation, I headed for the door to tell him off. Could he not read the sign? There were good reasons why we left the doors locked as we worked in the morning! I started in on him crossly, as the door opened a crack. “Just a minute and I’ll explain,” he interjected when I took a breath. I bit my tongue and listened. It seems that he had made a conscious decision to come before the customers lined up at noon. He had something to talk about which was potentially embarrassing to me and the business and he didn’t want to discuss it in front of other people.
It turned out that a relative of his, who lived rent-free in a house which belonged to him, had sold some equipment he had stored in the garage at the house to me. He didn’t want to file a police report and was willing to pay me back what I had laid out for the assorted electronic gadgets. I apologized for my treatment of him, then I apologized for his inconvenience, and again for the fact that he was having to pay to get his own equipment back. He didn’t have to do this! He could have just called the police; filled out an incident report stating that he was filing charges against the young lady and they would have picked up the equipment in question, giving me none of the cash I had paid out for it. It wouldn’t have cost him a dime to get his property back. But, he didn’t want to leave me holding the bag for that money. And, he hoped to keep from embarrassing the young lady, much as he was trying to help me to avoid embarrassment.
I am embarrassed. Not because you now know that I bought stolen goods. Not even because I was taken in by the young lady’s hard luck story, not once, but four times! I am embarrassed because of my treatment of this man as he stood outside my window Monday morning, trying to save me trouble and loss. My humiliation is made worse because a mere seven hours before, I had arrogantly written to you about my plans regarding how I intended to treat the “worn and tired folks” who would come across my path that day. In the midst of my embarrassment, we made the financial arrangements and I helped him load up the items, apologizing again as he shook my hand warmly, obviously unaware of my discomfort and personal chagrin.
Disappointment in myself is not a new experience for me, so I gave myself a good talking to and determined to do better the next time. I thought I was successful. As one of my “always with me” guys came in with a guitar that same afternoon, I determined to treat this broken person as I had promised you I would. I was gratified to hear him tell me that he realized how badly he was failing in his responsibilities. Like the Prodigal Son of the scriptures, he was going home to live with his father and to get away from the negative influence his friends exerted on him. All he needed was a few dollars for the bus ticket and, would I be willing to buy his old guitar “the first one he had ever owned”? It was all he had left. I talked with him about the wisdom of his path and encouraged him to stick with friends who would help him to get things straight, rather than enable him to return to his old ways. Money was exchanged for the battered instrument, we shook hands warmly, and he was on his way. I was proud of him and even a little proud of myself for encouraging him to mend his ways.
Today, a young man I have never seen before came into the store. “Have you bought any guitars from ___ this week?” My heart sank. Yep. That guitar. It was simply one more con job, one more lie to get me to shell out a buck or two to keep him going. Is he going home to his father? I really don’t know. A man who will sell you stolen goods and lie bald-faced to you while he’s taking your money, will lie about his plans for the future, too.
This week has brought one disappointment after another, as far as my faith in people goes…and it’s only half over. People for whom I have had high expectations have failed dismally and some for whom I had high hopes have fallen short of my aspirations for them. Not the least of these disappointments has been in myself. Oh! And the change to standard time has reminded me that the days are getting a lot shorter and the sadness that accompanies that phenomenon will be upon me soon. “Nobody loves me. Everybody hates me. I’m going to go to the garden and eat worms.” I think I’ll just wallow here for awhile. Would that be okay?
Surprisingly, my spirit is not defeated, in spite of the discouragement of the last few days. I am actually encouraged, as I look at the responses I have seen in those around me, and indeed, in myself. Friends have been in agreement as we discuss the need to help each other, the need to forgive and support those who fall. I am one of those fallen. I’m realizing though, that when you hit the ground, all you have to do is stand up again. I’m not saying it’s easy, just that it’s possible. That last fall may make me limp for awhile, but I can still move ahead. The exciting thing is that, knowing what I know about myself, if I can do it, it is reasonable to expect that others will be able to get up again too.
I am trusting that my friend, who has taken advantage of me more times that I can count, will one day make a new start. I have faith that the young lady who sold me stolen merchandise will realize that she has already been forgiven and will allow Grace to work in her heart. And knowing that Grace is already at work in my own heart, I am confident that I can (and will) continue to press on to the finish line.
Yeah, I’ll trip on another hurdle or two before that, but getting up is the key. We can help each other with that, too. Okay?
“Disappointment, to a noble soul, is what cold water is to burning metal; It strengthens, tempers, intensifies, but never destroys it.”
(Eliza Tabor~British author~1835-1914)
“We fall down; we get up. We fall down; we get up.
And the Saints are just the sinners, who fall down and get up.”
(“We Fall Down”~Kyle David Matthews~American songwriter)