Altar Call –
I hate to admit it but Mother Teresa may be right
Some folks may disagree but I think
I have a rather positive disposition. I try hard not to behave like a grumpy
old man. I like people. I want people to like me. And I am quite certain that
people do not enjoy negative people. So I make an effort to smile and be
pleasant in my interaction with other people.
However in our increasingly
impersonal society “being pleasant” is not a high priority for some people.
Therein is my problem. It frustrates me when my kind words are rebuffed with a
gruff reply. But what bothers me even more is that I often allow an apathetic
reply to trigger a similar response from me.
My wife tries to help me. She says,
“You should accept the world like it is. People don’t owe you a smile. Stop
expecting people to react the way you think they should. Just accept people the
way they are and move on.” She is right. I know it. But I just can’t get over
wanting people to be nice and friendly.
I remind myself that I cannot
control how other people act. I only have control of my actions and reactions.
That is true. Still I have this nagging desire for people to be agreeable and kind.
I even believe I have a right to expect
salespeople in the stores to be pleasant. Am I expecting too much? I don’t
think so. Here’s the way I see it. Stores cannot exist without customers. I am
a customer. I walk into a store with money. The salesclerk will not have a job
unless customers like me spend money. Surely the people who need my money will
offer me a warm and friendly greeting.
Guess what? The pleasant welcome is
frequently not offered. Just today I walked into one of the popular big chain
drugstores. Going to the pharmacy counter I handed a woman my prescription. No
smile. No pleasant words. Just the blunt statement: “You don’t bring that here;
take it the drop-off counter.” She pointed in that direction with a look that
seemed to say, “Over there stupid!”
The woman at the drop-off counter
was no improvement. No hello. No how are you. Without saying a word or looking
me in the eyes she simply held out her hand. After giving her the paper I asked
her long I might have to wait. She said dryly, “Probably 20 minutes.”
After 20 minutes I was back at the
first counter. Still no friendly smile from the “no nonsense”
clerk. No sign that she was pleased that I was spending $110 for the
medicine. If anything she seemed irritated that she
had to explain their routine of having customers sign for the receipt of the
medicine. Holding the bag of medicine in her hand she asked me to prove my
identity before handing the bag to me. It was as though she was making sure I
was not a gangster stealing someone’s medicine.
When the transaction was completed
she said without any feeling, and without looking at me, “Have a nice day.” I
managed a quiet “You too” as I walked away, nursing my wounded feelings. I was
thinking, “Lord, help me stay well so I won’t have to come back here anytime
There is something wrong with that
scene in the drugstore. A customer spending money to help make a business
successful ought to be able to walk away feeling appreciated. Am I wrong to
think somebody should have let me know they were glad I chose to spend my money
in their store?
When I encounter the impersonal and
sometimes unfriendly attitudes I try to give people the benefit of the doubt. Maybe
the unpleasant clerk’s husband had beaten her the night before, or perhaps she
was suffering from hemorrhoids. Maybe there was a sick child at home. Pain and
trouble do rob us of our joy so I need to remember that when I fault someone
for not being pleasant.
My greatest concern is actually not
with the attitudes of others but with my own. It bothers me that I am so quick
to lose my own smile, and my own pleasant disposition, when I run into someone
who is unfriendly and uncaring. That is where the challenge is for me – to
maintain a cheerful attitude and not allow an unpleasant person to rob me of my
Mother Teresa may have been right.
She said the whole thing is between me and God, not between me and the
unpleasant people. Here are her penetrating words:
People are often unreasonable and
self-centered. Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse
you of ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.
If you are honest, people may cheat
you. Be honest anyway.
If you find happiness, people may be
jealous. Be happy anyway.
The good you do today may be
forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have and
it may never be enough. Give your best anyway.
For you see, in the end, it is
between you and God.
It was never between you and them
hate to admit it but the dear Mother’s words nail me every time I read them. I
believe she was right. And I know the more I follow her advice the less
unpleasant faces will frustrate me. Lord, help me! + + +