by Father Mark Goldasich
Well, it’s two steps forward, one step back. At least that’s what I hope it is.
Picture me a few Wednesdays ago at Sam’s Club. I’m ready to check out and, out of the corner of my eye, notice a woman who is about a minute away from paying for her purchases. I scoot in behind her and unload a hefty pile of stuff onto the conveyor belt. As I slip out my Sam’s card, I see the woman slide her credit card into the machine and get ready to sign her name on the electronic screen.
I look up at the sound just in time to see a little slip of paper come out of the cash register. “Ma’am,” the cashier says, “your credit card has been denied.”
The woman is stunned. At the ca- shier’s suggestion, she swipes her card again. Beep! Now the woman is on her cell phone, calling her bank. She finally reaches someone who can help her. Relieved, she swipes her card and now punches some secret numbers into the credit card scanner.
Beep! Another rejection! The woman turns to me, apologizes, and says, “I can’t believe this is happening. I don’t know what’s the matter. I pay my bal- ance in full every month!”
I wave off her apology and flash her a “don’t-worry-about-it” smile. There’s
a shift change and a new cashier takes over the problem. She suggests the woman give it another try. It’s the same drill: call the bank, swipe the card, enter more secret numbers and . . . beep! Rejected! My frozen food begins to thaw
on the belt.
Totally fed up, the woman hauls out
another credit card, swipes it and, halle- lujah, it works! As she begins yet another apology to me, I say, “Look, ma’am, don’t be concerned about this. It’s not your fault. And, honestly, if this is the worst thing that happens to me today, I’ll consider myself lucky. I hope that this is the worst part of your day and that the rest of the day only gets better.”
As the woman leaves, the clerk says, “Wow, you were really patient. Most people wouldn’t have been so nice.”
I answer with a grin, “Hey, I’m work- ing on it.”
Still fresh in my mind was a similar situation several months before, also at Sam’s. This time, however, I was the “of- fending party.” I’d had a few gift cards pile up and decided to use them all at once. Two went through fine; one was stubborn. A woman behind me emptied her cart on the belt while she chatted on the phone. The clerk scanned my
gift card again and again, to no avail. I gave a “what-can-you-do?” shrug to the woman behind me. She stared daggers back at me.
When a supervisor came over and told the clerk to rescan my whole order, the woman behind me lost it. She was still on the phone and loudly huffed into it, “Oh, I just can’t believe this! Some guy is in front of me…” I didn’t hear the rest as she violently turned away to pick things up from the belt and slam them back into her cart. It was an ugly display. I didn’t like what I saw.
OK, my patience in Sam’s equals
two steps forward. The one step back concerns the Kansas City Star. Since Sept. 1, there’s been a new carrier who has been bypassing my house. After three days of this, I asked my secretary to call the carrier. On Saturday, there’s
a paper in the driveway; on Sunday, nothing. Monday morning dawned with high hopes, which quickly dissipated along with my patience, as I surveyed an empty driveway.
The words of Jesus from this past weekend flashed in my mind and in- dicted me: “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” Patience and cross-carry- ing go hand in hand. For many of us, the crosses that we encounter are the little inconveniences of daily life, like wait- ing in line or not getting a paper. But it’s often these small things that drive us to extremely inappropriate responses. Patience helps us put it all into perspec- tive. My behavior at Sam’s made me feel good. It’s how I think Jesus might have handled things. The paper situation? Well, not so much.
Maybe we can all make patience our goal in this month of September as school and other activities get into full swing. You can bet that something, sometime, will go wrong. Will we see the difficulty as a cross to be accepted? The way we respond will show Jesus, and those around us, whether we care enough to step up and be his disciples or not.