© Debbie Porter - 9th November, 2004
Why does it always seem
That when I'm in a hurry
Someone comes along
To set things in a flurry?
Now it can be so easy
To let impatience out
Just let 'em know we're angry
And really scream and shout.
But wouldn't it be better
When time is in a bind
To follow Christís example
Showing patience; being kind.
~ Debbie Porter ~
She was a "newbie", and that fact couldn't have been more obvious if she'd been wearing a big hat with a sign on it saying, "FIRST DAY ON THE JOB".
Just a quick glance in her direction sealed that opinion in my mind as I hurriedly made my way into the local supermarket that morning. Her movements were slow and uncertain, and an anxious frown was etched deep into her forehead. An invisible question mark seemed to loom over her head as she plodded nervously through the task of checking out the customer's groceries.
Turning away from my inspection, I made a mental note to use the Express Lane on my way out. In a week or so, she'd probably be the quickest "check-out chick" in town, but for now she was definitely best avoided. Being a "newbie's" guinea pig was not, in any way, shape or form, on my agenda for the day -- I was a woman on a mission!
Synchronizing my watch with the clock over the entryway, I noted that it was 7.30 am, which gave me exactly half an hour to get bread, milk, fruit and deodorant, then check out and be back home in time for Matt to drive the car to school.
It was going to be tight and it was definitely a challenge -- but it was a challenge that I was ready to rise to. Juggling grocery shopping with car use was something I had become quite familiar with. This particular morning would be no exception.
Within ten minutes I had everything on the list and was walking at a brisk-pace to the exit. Due to the early hour and small number of customers at that time of the day, only one normal check-out lane was open -- and, of course, that was the "newbie's".
With scarcely a glance in her direction, I headed confidently to the Express section, only to discover that it too was closed -- or at least, unattended.
Sighing with resignation, I turned back to the one open check-out, hoping against hope that it wouldn't be too bad.
Falling in behind the two customers already in line, I noted with much thanksgiving, that they only had baskets -- not trolleys! Even if "Ms. Newbie" lived down to expectations, I'd still make it through in plenty of time.
Another quick check of my watch to confirm that window of opportunity in the time/space continuum, then it was a simple matter of adding my little basket of goodies onto the conveyor belt and waiting my turn.
She was slow ... there was no question about it. Everything took at least twice as long as a regular assistant would take. Still, the first customer's groceries were eventually processed and the conveyor belt shuffled along for the next in line.
For a moment or two, the check-out greenhorn seemed lost in contemplation as she bid adieu to the retreating back of her last customer. Then, as though realizing for the first time that there were others to serve, she turned to the tall gentleman standing in front of me.
He was wearing a bright orange safety vest and appeared ready to spring into action at a moment's notice. Obviously stopping in for a couple of things on the way to a hard day's work, he had his money ready and seemed to be just waiting for his items to be scanned so he could hand over the money and get on his way.
In a perfect world, that would have happened -- but of course, this isn't a perfect world.
The scanning of his two purchases didn't take all that long, but what happened next did.
As "Mr. Workman" handed over the correct money, "Ms. Newbie" seemed dazed. She didn't know what to do. Perhaps in these days of cashless shopping, she hadn't actually ever encountered someone tendering the right amount.
Eventually, she entered something in to the register ... but nothing happened.
Again, we were treated to a look of complete bemusement on the face of our assistant. The frown-line in her forehead etched itself so deep that I was sure it was about to cut clear down to her skull!
She stood motionless in front of the register, with nothing registering -- either with the machine or with her!
After a minute a kind voice said, "I think if you just enter in the amount I've given you, that should work it all out."
The orange-vested one had offered a helpful suggestion and all those who had joined the line looked at him with admiration. Our hero!
At first she didn't respond, but then she decided to throw caution to the wind and follow the customer's suggestion. After all, the customer is always right.
Well ... usually.
Our hero may have been right if nothing else had been done beforehand. But instead there was a horrified gasp as the cash register rang up a total of $1200, with about $1985 change owing.
The kind workman laughed good-naturedly and suggested that she just give him the docket, because after all, he had given her the right money.
That seemed like a pretty neat suggestion to me, as I'm sure it did to all those who had joined the line behind.
Again, the assistant seemed frozen -- unable to solve the dilemma and, for some reason, unwilling to seek help. All she had to do was turn on her little red light and ring the bell, but she didn't. After what seemed an eternity, she began looking around for someone to come and help. Eventually one of the more senior assistants walked into her line of sight, and in that instant she verbally pounced.
Immediately the problem was solved. Our orange-vested, helpful hero was given his docket and allowed to leave. The conveyor belt shuffled forward and "Ms. Newbie" turned her anxious eyes my way as she mumbled, "Sorry 'bout that."
After almost chewing my fingernails down to the cuticles and checking my watch at least a dozen times while waiting, what was my response?
The whole production had consumed way more time than any of us were able to spare at that hour of the morning. Yet, from the good-natured workman to the very last shopper in line, there had not been one grumble or complaint. In fact, as far as our orange-vested hero was concerned, he'd been the picture of kindness.
If we were to be scrupulously honest about our feelings, I suspect that most of us would have admitted to a little internal "huffing and puffing" about the delay. Yet we all managed to keep that under wraps and instead, show a face of patience.
It's not always easy to do that, and at times I believe it is appropriate to voice a complaint. But for the most part, it's better to be patient with those around us. That doesn't mean we can't offer helpful suggestions to get things back on track, but even then, as was the case with the orange-vested one, our help is best tended with kindness -- not anger.
Being patient is a fruit of the Spirit and therefore should be quite obvious in our lives. But for me, there's another reason why I want it to be evident ... and that's because God has shown such overwhelming patience toward me. As the Apostle Paul wrote, "... Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners--of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life." (1 Timothy 1:15-16 NIV)
Through Christ, God has shown us just how longsuffering He is toward His creation. Instead of wiping the lot of us from the face of the planet because of our constant rebellion against Him, He chose to restrain His wrath and express His patience by making a way to cover our sin with grace.
Patience and grace go hand in hand. If our Creator, Almighty God, is able to show that to us in the depth of our wrongdoing, shouldn't we be willing to show the same to those around us?
Particularly to "newbie check-out chicks".
"Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love."
~ Ephesians 4:2 NIV ~