Giving Grace in a Turkey Moment

"Great things come in the unexpected". That was a quote I profoundly (and proudly) came up with after a wonderful start to my week where the days were good, fun surprises just kept coming around every corner, and the world was my playground. Ah, what a life. I should have known that with days going so well as I floated on the mountaintop, the valley couldn't be far behind.

Lucky me. I found out yesterday afternoon that not so great things also come in the unexpected. Mid-afternoon found me struggling with an issue that I couldn't have possibly seen coming. I was blindsided. Stunned. Incredulous. A "this can't possibly be happening" feeling overwhelmed me. It overwhelmed others very close to me too, and I felt their pain. With one phone call, my day had turned on a dime and my sunny outlook turned grim. Hello, valley.

After working things through with the involved parties at the end of the day, life leveled out a degree or two and I was just starting to regain a slight sense of balance this morning when the second blow hit. This time it was a daughter in tears on the phone, unable to register for spring semester classes at her college due to lack of a required physical, thereby blocking her online records and her ability to do the urgent task at hand. As I sat in my desk chair at work listening to her, I was completely at a loss as to how to help her from 100 miles away. My head started to pound with this new pressure being set squarely on top of the tension still fresh from yesterday that had barely started to clear. Could this much really be happening in such a short period of time? Seemed so, because happening it was.

Whereas dilemma number one's resolution hadn't come yet, for problem number two God showed up in a big way and fast. At the time, I had approximately 20 free minutes at school between classes, and my daughter's phone call came at the top of those 20. Still doing accomplishable work tasks while I set up command central on my cell phone, I placed call after call to various sources trying to help her out. My husband offered to make as many 100 mile round trips as needed to get her home and back if she needed to see our family doctor. Finally, phone call number three for me was the charm- the health services office at her university assured me that if she placed a call to them, they would waive the restriction and off to registration-land she could go. My panic lessened; solutions were on the horizon. I called her, she called them, and in minutes she had a spring schedule and was on her way to the rest of her day. And my 20 minutes were up.

Fortunately as my day continued it held no more surprises good or bad, which was fine with me. After a quick dinner out, I stopped at the store. After picking up my few items, I got in what appeared to be the shortest checkout line. (if you've ever shopped, you know what's coming next.) The woman in front of me was trying to redeem her grocery store coupon for her free turkey. She had a lovely looking bird there, but as I caught the conversation, I could hear the store employees telling her she had picked too nice a catch. This was definitely a turkey upgrade from what the coupon allowed for free... instead of getting the nice fresh gobbler, I think she was supposed to have chosen the frozen block of meat that resembled a bowling ball.

They tried voiding the purchase. We waited. They tried voiding the whole order. We waited.
They tried fooling the register into thinking that she really had purchased the right fowl. We waited some more. Five minutes passed. A store employee went to get another turkey, and when she reappeared with it, it sure looked to all of us in line like the same brand of turkey that had just been denied only minutes before. So, again we waited.

As all good responsible shoppers do, the lady who was trying to buy this bird turned to us line-waiters and got very apologetic. Embarrassing to her, the line was getting longer and longer, the employees were running out of options, and the cash register was still locked up. What to do, her eyes pleaded; what to do?

Personally, for me this waiting was not a bad thing. I had been in constant motion and on my feet all day, so to stand still in the same place for five to ten minutes wasn't bothering me one bit. So when Mrs. Turkey Buyer turned to me and started bashfully apologizing for how long this was taking and how she was holding things up, I seized the opportunity to spread a little Thanksgiving cheer. I just looked at her and said, "Hey - if this is the worst thing that happened to me all day, then I'm doing pretty good." She looked relieved. I continued, "After what I've been through in the past twenty four hours, this is nothing. I don't know about the rest of the line, but I'm in no hurry; I'm fine. Take your time." Her face showed extreme gratitude and appreciation, and inwardly I felt that I had just learned that it's all about perspective. I was tired and looking for a rest; she got the wrong plucked piece of meat and had held up the entire checkout line. Together, we had the perfect storm.

On a different day, if I was late and pressed for time, I might not have reacted quite as gracefully (shame on me). But it didn't happen on another day; it happened today soon after my bad run on events. Maybe today that gal just needed a break. And maybe God knew He had taught me enough in the past twenty-four hours that I was in the right position to give it to her. For whatever the reason, it felt great to not complain and just enjoy my extra time between the candy and the magazines.

You may have a similar experience this holiday season, and if so you have my permission to smile it away and thereby spread a little holiday hope. You'll amaze those around you and gleefully irritate those who wish to be a Scrooge. But buyer beware - to avoid being on the giving end of extra minutes for others in line when you chose your Thanksgiving roaster, choose wisely my friend. Remember to downgrade and choose wisely.

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