It happened again today. What was it? A lesson for me to ponder came to me today. A lesson that points out a true weakness I possess.

I was leaving the grocery store parking lot when an elderly lady pushed her cart alongside the driver’s side of my pickup. I saw her mouth move. I rolled down my window.

“I said, ‘you got in your car too fast.’ I was pushing my buggy up here as fast as I could to get you to help me pick this up.” She pointed to a bag of kitty litter in her shopping cart.

“Oh,” I said as I turned off the ignition and got out of the truck. Generations of southern Appalachian heritage, Boy Scout training, and practical ministry all made my response automatic. I quickly got the medium sized bag into the backseat of her car.

Only when I got back into my car did I realize she said something else. “Usually I just stand here and wait for someone to come along.”

The thought of this woman waiting in a parking lot for “someone” to come help her meant she possesses one virtue that I am not known for – patience. She had to practice patience in order to wait with peace of mind until a person would show up to help her. I don’t know if I will ever be able to do that even when the time comes that I have to do it.

My father taught me the following prayer. “Lord, grant me patience and hurry it up!” One motto I live by is “let’s get started and get it done.” My mother used to say, “I am not a doctor so I don’t have to have patience” (yes, it is a terrible pun). I can safely claim I come by this lack of patience in my life honestly.

Now, if we join that lack of patience with my tendency to procrastination, we have a very disturbing situation indeed. I tend to experience guilt for not doing some tasks in a timely fashion. And I further procrastinate by beating myself up emotionally for procrastinating. As insane as this sounds keep in mind I used to use alcohol to help with depression. Try not to think too long about that.

Getting back to this lady who stopped me earlier today, I can guess that her patience is a part of a plan she makes. She has to consider what time of day someone is most likely to be in the parking lot who can and will help her. I know having a plan and putting it into play is important to having peace of mind. The real question is what if the plan does not work when it meets with reality. How is it possible to keep peace of mind with it?

I recalled the time in my teen-aged years when I often stopped at a convenience store in Alcoa named The Pantry. I was there one day when, after I got in line for the register, an older man came to me and asked, “Can you make me a hot dog?”

I quickly saw his drawn up and paralyzed arm would keep him from getting one of the hotdogs from the rollers and placing it in the bun let alone get any toppings for it. “Oh,” I said, “Sure.” I got out of line and followed his directions for his hotdog. When I was done, he said, “Make yourself one too.” I begged off saying it was getting late. And there would be supper at home. Then, I thanked him for the offer. As I said previously, generations of southern Appalachian culture and Boy Scout training were involved here. I had no idea how much money the man had to live on. I wouldn’t take any from him.

I think of him too as someone who went to that store planning to get the clerk to help him get what he needed. But the clerk was busy that day. So his practice of patience gave him the ability to ask someone else and to make allowance for extra expense. It is pretty amazing to be able to look at these situations that happened about thirty years apart and to reflect on what they mean.

I was glad to be of help. I knew I had done a daily “good turn.” I just wasn’t the hero I think I was. I was and am the student in these situations. I can’t say I got the real lesson yet. It has been said that the longest distance is between the head and the heart. I know this is true for me. And I am told I am a compassionate person. I try to be. I realize though intellectually that practicing patience is important if I am to grow in compassion. No if I can get this lesson impressed on my heart.

“Compassion is patient; compassion is kind; compassion is not envious, or boastful, or rude. It does not insist on it’s own way; it does not irritable or resentful.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-5)

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