While waiting for my car to be serviced today, a man was coughing violently in the dreaded service department waiting room (I always imagine one of those cartoon skeletons sitting in these rooms…sometimes the wait feels that long). My initial thoughts when the man started coughing were my usual holy, loving ones. Concerns about if he was contagious, wondering why he was alone (he was elderly and had a cane) and gratitude that I wasn’t sitting too close to him (I know, I know. I’m not a nice person). As my wait went on and the coughing fits continued, I had a thought: Get him a drink of water. Where are my ear plugs? I didn’t want to get him water. There are at least six other people in the room, why can’t one of them get him water? I don’t even know where there is water. What if he doesn’t want some water. What if other people feel like I made them look like thoughtless jerks because they didn’t get him a water. As I sat making my excuse list my eyes were drawn to a bracelet I was wearing. The bracelet is for a website called “I am Second.” As in Jesus is first, I am second. Yes, I know Lord but he’s not even coughing anymore. Then, as I tried to justify the hypocrisy of what the bracelet said and how I was really living, hoping and praying that the man wouldn’t start coughing or that the miraculous would happen and his car would finally be done, I heard this in my head, “What if that was Casey.” What if that was my son, someday. What would I want someone to do. A minute later the man started coughing again, but this time he looked around the room and said, “I’m not contagious…it’s asthma.” But before he could finish his sentence, I jumped up, grabbed him a water bottle, opened it and handed it to him and said, “Would you like some water?” He took it from me with precious shaky hands and said, “Well, thank you.” Then I sat down, heart racing and kept reading, embarrassed at how difficult it is to do the right thing when it really shouldn’t be.
“Dear Lord, thank you for showing me through a simple, everyday situation today how worried I am about what other people think of me. Thank you that you do not put thought bubbles above my head so the man who thought I was so nice, couldn’t see the real condition of my hesitant heart. Help me next time Lord to help more quickly, to think less of what others might think and to always treat others the way I want people to treat me or my family. Most of all, please remind me the next time I have a chance to help in some small way, it really isn’t that hard. In your Name, Amen.”