by Father Mark Goldasich
“You guys, I am sooooooo sorry.”
The words were spoken by a harried waitress on a recent Sunday when my mom and I decided to head out to a popular restaurant for lunch. The place was packed and we were seated in a booth close to the kitchen. Our waitress had just stopped by, for the third time, to refill our tea and Diet Coke glasses.
“Your order should be coming up really soon,” she said. “The cook is kinda over- whelmed back there and . . .”
I stopped her with a smile and said, “Hey, don’t worry about it. I was a waiter once, and you’re doing a great job. We see that the place is jampacked, and the orders are coming out of the kitchen as fast as they can. It’s OK! If this is the worse thing that happens to me today — that I’ve had to wait for my lunch — then this will be a spectacular day.”
A look of relief washed over her face and, in short order (so to speak), out came our food. It was delicious and well worth the wait.
As things slowly calmed down, the waitress came by, visited with us and thanked us for being so patient and understanding. I left a nice tip and Mom left her some advice, “You keep smiling and stay as sweet as you are.”
There’s a lot to be said for treating people with gentleness. It’s how I try to live, because that’s how my parents lived. I’m not always successful in that, to be sure, but it’s something that I continue to strive for.
Author and pastor Clark Cothern envisions God as a “gentler,” similar to Tom Booker. Remember him? That was the character Robert Redford portrayed in the 1998 movie “The Horse Whisperer,” which told the story of Booker, who was said to have a gift of “gentling” horses.
You might remember the film: A hard-driven New York editor watches in amazement at the transformation
of her daughter’s horse from traumatized to tame. In one scene, when her cellphone goes off, the horse is so frightened that it streaks off to the farthest end of a pasture. Booker walks out to the pasture and then calmly sits down…and waits…and waits. Eventually, the horse’s curiosity gets the better of it, and it inches closer and closer to Booker until he’s at last able to touch the horse’s nose and lead it back to the safety of the stable.
Cothern says that God often does the same with us who so often stray from him by our sins: God “gentles” us back to him.
Gentleness and patience don’t come easy for us in our hectic world. Heck, I remember watching “The Horse Whisperer” when it first came out. Its leisurely pace — it clocks in at nearly three hours — made me impatient and wanting things to happen faster in the film! But that was the point, I guess: To teach the lesson that good things come to those who (have the patience to) wait.
Every summer, I get “re- schooled” in patience by the “gentler” biweekly schedule of The Leaven, which we enter into with this issue. As gentleness takes hold of me, so too does patience. Gentleness makes me more human, in a sense, and provides perspective.
Let this summertime be a lesson of growing in gentleness. Practice slowing down from the busyness of life. Take deep breaths, feel the cool grass beneath your bare feet, savor a meal on the patio or porch, watch for lightning bugs, take a nap, get comfort- able with a good book, stare at the starry night.
As life relaxes, you’ll probably hear the gentle voice of God in a breeze or in the quiet of your heart. And don’t be surprised if, as you gentle down, you discover in yourself a desire and a gift for “gentling” those around you.