Well, it happened again this morning, starting with my waking up at 5:37.
One day this week as I was charging down a hallway in the hospital, the story of the Good Samaritan landed on my mental shoulder like a songbird. In that story, Jesus tells a man that loving God and loving our neighbor are the two most important commandments. The man asks Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus answers him with a story, carefully slipping in the answer to a question the man didn’t ask: “What keeps us from loving our neighbor?”
Like the priest and Levite with the important schedules, we’re too busy.
Like I said, I woke up at approximately 5:37. I calculated whether I had enough time to shower, get dressed, drive to Panera for coffee and pastries, and drive to Marnell’s house to give him the coffee and pastries to take on his road trip. He had said he might leave around 6:30, but I decided to assume that he would leave a little after that and so I showered and dressed in haste and left the house.
I made another assumption: that it would take me about 5 minutes to buy two coffees and a couple of pastries at Panera.
My first problem was when I got out of my car at Panera and realized I had no money.
“Do you take checks?” I asked the girl behind the counter.
“Let me check,” she said, leaving the cash register to go find someone.
That should have been my first clue that she didn’t know what she was doing.
They don’t take checks. Then I remembered Apple Pay.
“Do you take Apple Pay?” I asked.
“Let me check,” she said, leaving again.
They do, so I told her what I wanted: a couple of pastries and coffees, a fruit and yogurt parfait, and my free bagel from my Panera card. She asked if I wanted the bagel sliced and toasted.
“No, I’m in kind of a hurry so I’ll just take it,” I said. I was planning to eat it later anyway.
“Well if you’re in a hurry, you might not want the fruit and yogurt parfait,” she said. “I have to make it.”
I had already clicked the button on my phone to pay for my purchase, but I told her she could skip the fruit and yogurt. However, she asked a co-worker to make it for me.
Then, she began to slice bagels, which I assumed were for the customer before me. She didn’t seem clear about the proper way to use either the bagel slicer or the bagel toaster. (Wouldn’t these be entry-level skills at a bagel shop?)
In the background, the worker making my parfait was talking to another employee about someone who apparently should have been there helping them but wasn’t.
“I guess she had a family emergency in the middle of the night and will be in late.”
A few minutes later, I had gotten my fruit and yogurt parfait, but not my pastries. The lone cashier kept apologizing.
“What else did you order?” she asked me, leaving the bagels she was working with. I wanted to say that there was no point in my ordering anything if it took much longer, but thankfully I didn’t.
She was going to get my pastries, when the other customer spoke up.
“I really need to be leaving right now.”
The cashier brought something, and the customer told her something was wrong. She went back for something else, apologizing profusely. Finally, that customer was taken care of, and the cashier brought my pastries.
By now, it was about 6:30 and I must have been in the store for fifteen minutes.
“I’m sorry it took so long,” she said.
Honestly, I don’t remember what I said. I don’t think I was overtly rude to her, but what she really needed from me right then, was for me to look her in the eye with a kind, unhurried expression and say, “I can see you’re really busy this morning. God bless your day.”
And… nope, I didn’t say that.
I got to Marnell’s house, and what do you know, his vehicle was still there. I thought of texting him, but for the sake of surprise, I decided to wait on the front steps until I was discovered. His roommate Rocky discovered me first when he looked out the front door.
“Is Marnell still here?” I hissed from the steps.
“Yes, come in and surprise him!” he said.
What a great partner in crime!
Marnell is too calm and cool to drop things or be dramatic when he found me sitting at the kitchen table.
“I brought you some coffee,” I explained, “and Rocky let me in.” Rocky was chuckling in the background.
“But you don’t have to sit down.” I knew he had places to go.
“What if I want to sit down?” he replied.
Dear me. He’s so sweet! 🙂
As we sat and talked, I said, “I feel a little bad about how I treated the girl at Panera. I mean I wasn’t rude to her, but I wasn’t particularly nice to her either.”
A few minutes later, he and Rocky were discussing some of the young people they spend time with, often giving them a ride or picking them up at random places. I saw this in action just a few nights ago when Rocky cooked curry for us and a few of these guys, then offered to give one young man a ride home so he wouldn’t have to bike in the rain.
“What a ministry,” I said.
“I don’t know if it’s really a ministry,” Rocky said.
According to the definition set by Jesus Christ in the story of the Good Samaritan, loving your neighbor means taking the time to help someone in need, particularly someone who you might have reason to avoid. It’s funny that even back in Jesus’ day, selfish people were the ones that were too busy to help others.
“Spending time with people is very important,” Marnell has told me several times, usually in the context of a discussion about rushing around. I’m afraid that I really have a chronic problem with this. But, thank God, He faithfully points it out to me and has put people in my life to challenge me.
Maybe I need to make another trip to Panera. 🙂