I’m a good complainer. Not the best, but decent. I come from a long line of complainers, and lately I’ve become more disturbingly aware of how I am passing this legacy onto my offspring. Time and again, I’ve knelt in the confessional, complaining about how I complain, and yet I still complain.
On Halloween Day of this year, I found myself craving a chocolate croissant. (I deny myself sugar through the week as an offering to God, and come Saturday morning, watch out.)
My desire for a chocolate croissant was so overpowering that I hopped in my car, still in my pajamas, which I figured could pass for clothing, and steered myself toward a nearby pastry shop–except that I missed the left turn that led to it. This began a detour that took me far, far away from my sweet destination, as each new intersection frustrated me with yet another “No left-hand turn” or “No U-turn” sign.
As I pulled into a parking lot, relieved to finally turn around, my eyes caught sight of two tattered looking men and a young boy in a Power Ranger costume. Together they were pushing two shopping carts, overladen with large bags of empty plastic bottles and cans.
A wave of empathy, mixed with painful self-awareness, came over me, and I began to cry. They looked to me like people who simply didn’t complain. They had worked so hard, rummaging through garbage cans and dumpsters, just to make a couple dollars. Perhaps they weren’t sure how they were going to survive. I followed them with my car and parked next to their destination–a large recycling bin. Through tear-soaked eyes, I searched for my purse, and with a trembling hand, impulsively grabbed all the bills out of my wallet. Like a sinner in one of the Gospel stories, compelled to approach Jesus with her soul laid bare, I walked briskly over to one of the men, I held out a wad of money and said, “I have a Halloween gift for you.”
He shook his head and declined, pointing to his friend with the young boy. So I walked over to the other man: “I have some extra money,” I told him. “Please take it. It’s a gift.” The man looked at me with a beautiful smile. Hesitantly, he accepted, and with a strong Tagalog accent said, “You are so kind, so generous. I’m a tailor, and I have no work. What can I do for you?
“I don’t want anything,” I said. “Just pray for me.” At these words his eyes filled with tears, and so did mine. I sensed he saw in that moment that I knew God. And I saw in his eyes that he did, too.
Overwhelmed, I went back to my car and wept again. This time I cried hard. I repented. My heart cracked open, feeling God’s pain for all the times I had complained and let negativity enter my thoughts. What did I have to complain about? I grew up in a middle class home. I have a wonderful family and every modern comfort. I have my health. I have faith. I cried for all my selfishness, for all the “poor me” moments in my life, which were too many to count.
Needless to say, I never got that chocolate croissant. Somehow it lost its appeal.
God took hold of the wheel of my car that Halloween morning. May He be the driver of all of our lives. Is there somewhere He’s steering you now?
Copyright 2010 Christine Watkins