Five a.m. is way too early to head out the front door to work.
But that’s what I must do when I travel to a conference and catch American’s early morning flight out of Palm Springs, CA. Part of me is still back in my bed, asleep on my pillow while the other part is making sure I have my I.D., my boarding pass, and my phone before I hop in the cab. At my age, trying to make sure you haven’t forgotten anything is stressful at any time of day.
At the airport, I drag myself through security, hit the restroom, and skip the Starbucks so I can sleep in my seat. Man, I hope they have good headrests on this plane. And no big football player next to me, please God. Then, I wait in a crowd of other travelers (“gate lice” as some flight attendants call us) until my group is called. It’s more than a few minutes of constant jostling for position and trying to keep others from practically pushing me to the ground. People are rude. Rude, rude, rude.
That’s when I see the guy dragging his suitcase through the crowd, headed directly toward me. Uh-oh. Women know these things; he thinks I’m pretty and wants to talk.
Look away, I quickly instruct myself, You’re tired and have no energy to chat.
But it’s too late. He catches my eye, smiles, walks right up, and stands next to me.
I think silently, Hello-o-o-o Mister-whoever-you-are. Look! My hand is resting on my luggage handle, can’t you SEE my wedding ring? Please go away.
“Good morning.” I politely smile, and I know my reply is chilly, but he doesn’t yet.
(Oh, PLEASE leave me alone. Please. I’m tired! I hate these flights. I want to be in my bed. I don’t need a boyfriend. Plus, your teeth are bad.)
“Where you headed?” he asks with a sweet but goofy grin.
His question interrupts my interior complaining. “Charleston,” I reply shortly and look away from him, off into the distance toward Phoenix or maybe Russia.
“I’m going to Boston,” he says happily. “Or at least I’m trying to get there!” He chuckles.
I didn’t even look at him this time. I stood tall and rigid, made no reply, and just kept staring out the window. I ignored him. Shut him down cold. He stopped talking and moved away.
But . . . argh-h-h. Within a few seconds I had a pit in my stomach for having been rude, rude, rude. I’m a Catholic author and speaker, for crying out loud. I’m supposed to help people love God and live their faith and my big motto is “Put your RELIGION into your RELATIONSHIPS” and I had just done the exact opposite.
Okay, Lord, I cried silently, here we go. Help me find him so I can make amends. I looked through the crowd for the man as we all boarded the plane. I could not find him. He probably found a place as far away from me as possible.
As I found my seat and started to buckle myself in, the interior dialogue started again.
What a cold-hearted, selfish B#$% you were! He’s probably just some nice guy who is maybe hungry for a little affirmation and all you had to do is smile and be nice for God’s sake. You’re always asking for opportunities to love people, well, this was a big one. You blew it.
I know, I know. I’m selfish and attached to my comforts, unlike the saints. I’m critical and judgmental.
Well, don’t wallow in it; you have a chance for redemption. Tell God you’re sorry (I’m sorry, Lord) and do the right thing. Seek forgiveness from the guy for your attitude to him.
What if I can’t find him?
Look for him.
What should I say?
‘You were so cheerful to me and I was rude, rude, rude. You did not deserve that. Please forgive me.’
I watched the other passengers coming on. He was nowhere to be found. Then more thoughts started in. Soft and accusatory at once.
The real reason you want to apologize is you care too much about your own image. You’re worried he hates you. You can’t stand if people don’t like you. You can’t stand that you weren’t holy enough. Wanting to apologize is really all about you. That’s pride! Stop making a big deal out of this. Let it go. It’s no big deal.
Look, the fact that you feel badly, and that you tried to look for him is enough. God only wants you to be sorry for your sins. God understands. Let it go now. You’re overthinking this. Just go to sleep now.
Yes, just buckle up and sleep. Slee-e-e-e-e-ep. (Poppies, poppies …)
Then I saw him. He was getting into the seat across the aisle, two seats away from me.
“Excuse me,” I said loudly and across the laps of my two adjacent passengers. “Sir?”
He (and others) turned and looked over at me. In front of God and everyone in rows eight and nine I smiled my most genuine smile and said, “Sir, you were so cheerful to me this morning and I was rude to you. I’m so sorry, will you please forgive me?”
He beamed that funny, missing-tooth smile.
“Aw, sure. That’s okay.”
Mission accomplished. I started to sit back and he added, “My name’s Tim.”
Acknowledge him. Acknowledge his goodness. Show him he’s loved. You know you want to!
“Hi, Tim,” I replied. “I’m Rose. Very nice to meet you!”
And I gave him the biggest, warmest, smile I could.As much as we all want to be good, we WILL struggle with pride until the day we die. Click To Tweet
As much as we all want to be good, we will struggle with pride until the day we die. With grace, hopefully we will continue to grow in love and the temptations to selfishness will have less allure. In the meantime, it’s never too late to go the extra mile to show someone they matter, or to undo a cold or nasty remark or action. No matter how small it seemed.
Just do it. It’s never too late to “Put your RELIGION into your RELATIONSHIPS”.
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“Miss no single opportunity of making some small sacrifice, here by a smiling look, there by a kindly word; always doing the smallest right and doing it all for love.”— St. Therese of Lisieux