She Yelled and Called Me Names

she-yelledPulling my car into the drive-thru line at Starbucks, I wondered why it was a dozen people deep. It wasn’t raining, yet it seemed everyone was driving through today. I was transporting three dogs to the groomer, and there was no way I could leave two wild Shih-tzus and one crazy Bichon alone while I went inside for my daily dose.

Millie, the Bichon, sat on my lap licking the window.

As I peeled her away from the glass, I saw the woman.

She sat across the parking lot, leaving just enough room for a thoroughfare, as she too was waiting in the Starbucks line. I smiled, and gestured to her. It went something like this: “Are you next, or am I?” Really, I was fine either way.

She was not.

Thinking I was trying to snag her spot of next up, she gunned her Suburban, rolled down the window, and let out a string of expletives that made me blush. Millie barked back a retort.

“Go ahead, please,” I said. “I wasn’t sure who was first.” I pulled Millie back onto my lap, so she could see I had been dog-distracted and truly didn’t know who was next.

She didn’t buy it. She continued with the name calling without taking a breath. I won’t write them down here, but the main mantra shared initials with the number one social networking site.

Then something really strange happened.

Instead of getting mad or yelling back at her, a sense of empathy invaded me. I looked at her again, and this time I saw someone different, someone who wrenched my heart. Her eyes were red and puffy. Her hair was pulled back in a natty ponytail. She held her phone in her palm, glancing down at it every few seconds. And she was driving that big ole’ gas hog of a Suburban, my own car of choice when I had three kids at home and a carpool.

Dear God. I was looking at myself ten years ago. Same car, same ponytail. Same frustration.

We’ve all been there. Dog vomits on the sofa. Both kids have strep throat. The garbage disposal chooses today to break, when you are trying to disintegrate moldy fridge leftovers.  Husband is mad because you forgot to pick up the dry cleaning and he’s going on a business trip. Sound familiar?

And by the way, was that him she had been talking to or texting?

She gunned forward, just to show me that she could.

I left her a wide berth, smiled at her splotchy face. She shot me a sideways scowl, mouthed the mantra again.

Pulling up to the loudspeaker behind her, I said “I want to pay for whatever the woman in front of me has ordered. And please tell her I hope she has a better day.” I meant every word.

The woman idled in front of me for a good four minutes, talking to the barista who had leaned out the window. She shook her head and handed over a bill. She drove around the side of the building slowly, this time no gunning. Hmmm.

“No takers, huh?” I said to the barista as I pulled forward.

“Nope. She said she couldn’t believe you wanted to pay for her drink after all the names she called you. She said she couldn’t allow it, and said to tell you she was sorry. She felt really bad.”

“Did you tell her I hoped she had a better day?”

“Yep. She said thanks— that she already was.”

“Good to hear.” I smiled and handed her a dollar to put in the tip jar.

As I drove away, I began to cry. Not because I had been called so many terrible names, but because God had answered my very recent prayer—which was that He would allow me to see people as He sees them, not as I see them.

That I might be able to see the hurting inside, instead of just the hurtful outside. And maybe a few tears were of gratitude and amazement that He always shows up with an answer when I sincerely ask.

Have you ever had an experience that made you see someone in a new way?

Photo Credit: shinji_w , Creative Commons

Reprinted from Susan Basham’s Blog, http://www.prodigalmagazine.com/she-yelled-and-called-me-names.  Talk about finding God in everyday life!

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235 Responses to She Yelled and Called Me Names

  1. Pingback: She yelled and called me names - Hot Dogma!

  2. Pingback: She Yelled and Called Me Names | madaboutyoulady

  3. Reblogged this on madaboutyoulady and commented:
    I think most of us can relate in one way or another.

  4. gracielynne62013 says:

    Reblogged this on Single Parents of Texas Unite – A site to educate, empower and unite single parents and commented:
    This is an exceptional way to view life. Through the eyes of Jesus

  5. secretangel says:

    Beautiful… God bless you!

  6. Dani says:

    I’m going to start saying the same prayer that she did. what a wonderfully amazing story.

  7. Becky Hale says:

    I love that, “See them how HE sees them. Not how WE see them.” That hit home. Thanks for sharing that. I’ve been having a hard time seeing someone I work with as HE sees them because she has hurt me and been cruel. I was just given the gift of more compassion, tolerance and patience. I am grateful. :)

  8. From my first book. A similar story..

    THE TOLL

    From Life Doesn’t Get Any Better Than This: The Holiness of Little Daily Dramas (Liguori Publications, 1996) by Robert A. Alper

    Mr. Makeit.

    Really. That was his name. As in “make it.”

    He was the John Howland Elementary School’s physical education instructor. Only back in the early 50’s he was referred to as “the gym teacher.” And with a name like “Mr. Makeit” one can only imagine the inventive ways we scatologically-inclined 4th graders referred to him.

    Mr. Makeit provided me with my first exposure to macho behavior. A couple of times each week my classmates and I would file to the basement, the girls heading down one stairway and the boys another. No lockers or gym uniforms or showers. Not even sneakers. Just a variety of physical activities in our street clothes and brown leather shoes. Still, the girls and boys were separated by a floor-to-ceiling divider that allowed nary a peek. I still have no idea what they did on the other side of that foreboding wall.

    But I remember Mr. Makeit’s class. He would have us run around the gym a few times, then line us up in four or five orderly rows. A short, stocky man with the requisite crew cut, always dressed in dark pants, a white, short sleeve shirt and blue bow tie, he would stand front and center and wait for the chatter and the panting to die down. It didn’t take long. Mr. Makeit played us like a symphony orchestra. We knew that as soon as we were quiet he’d announce the day’s activity.

    If we were really good, really cooperative, if we lined up with all the military precision 9-year-olds can muster, Mr. Makeit would very deliberately sweep his eyes back and forth across the expectant faces, then glance upward in a contemplative, wrinkled-forehead stare. Ever so slowly, ever so dramatically, he would announce, “Today (pause) we’re gonna play a game (pause) called (long pause) Scatter (pause) Dodge.”

    Pandemonium. Whoops and hollers and screams. We would have done “high fives” but we were a generation premature. Mr. Makeit took it all in, reveled in it. No doubt one of the highlights of his life.

    Twenty seconds of celebration and then our hero’s hand rose. Dead silence. Captains were appointed, teams selected, and a shriek of the whistle signaled the start of yet another game of Scatter Dodge.

    I hated it.

    First of all, I wasn’t particularly delighted at always being one of the last chosen. But since there were a few even more awkward than I, at least I had a couple of opportunities to murmur to the boy next to me, “Oh, great. We got Philip.”

    Mainly, though, I just never could understand the thrill of throwing a large rubber ball at another person in an attempt to hit him and knock him out of the game. Of course, I didn’t experience that particular “thrill” too often, since as a slow-moving target I was frequently eliminated from the contest early on. A well-thrown ball would hit me in the corduroys. I’d give the expected grimace, then go sit on the bench with the other early losers and cheer for the remaining members of my team. Not that I cared. It’s just what we knew we had to do.

    I suppose the lofty purpose of Scatter Dodge was to teach coordination, teamwork, and macho behavior. It’s a tough world, Mr. Makeit figured, and his job was to prepare us for what lay ahead. The lesson never quite worked for me, since even back then I would watch eager, aggressive classmates whomp each other and think, “This is really dumb.”

    I never became a fighter. I avoided situations that could lead to trouble, and deftly talked my way out of a couple of potentially-hazardous encounters with boozy fraternity brothers.

    But there was one time when I nearly did become involved in an “act of aggression,” as they say, an altercation with a pugnacious stranger.

    As these things often do, it began with a confrontation by automobile.

    I was meandering through an industrial park near my home one afternoon, not paying particularly close attention to my driving since the road was straight and traffic light. But I was jolted from my near-daydream when I almost plowed into a car that had stopped in the middle of the road without any apparent reason. No light. No intersection, driveway or crosswalk. The fellow had just decided to pause for a moment, perhaps to read directions or look up a number for his cell phone..

    It wasn’t even a near-miss. I had time to apply my brakes and slow to a safe stop. But I was annoyed. If I were a more confrontational type I would have exited my car and addressed the fellow as follows: “Sir. Stopping your vehicle for no apparent reason in the middle of a heavily-traveled roadway forces fellow drivers to take unanticipated defensive maneuvers that could result in an accident with damage to the vehicles and injury to the driver and/or its occupants.”

    I could have said that. Instead, I honked the horn.

    To me, it was just a friendly “Hey, let’s get going here” kind of a toot. Apparently the listener took it differently. Maybe he was in the midst of a bad day.

    In any event, the other driver raced off ahead of me, but soon after he rounded a turn he pulled off to the side of the road, jumped from the car, and as I drew near, angrily gestured for me to park my car behind his. Scatter Dodge and Mr. Makeit notwithstanding, I decided to decline the invitation. Instead, I passed by, smiled and waved pleasantly.

    Now he was behind me. I could see his tight, menacing face in my rear view mirror, sometimes distant, sometimes close as the speed and traffic dictated. We both drove up the wide ramp to the turnpike and I figured I had seen the last of him when he chose a different ticket booth. I hoped he would head east; I was going west.

    I relaxed into the rhythms of the highway, checking the rearview mirror and merging further and further left into the passing lane which I favored. I’d nearly forgotten the encounter when suddenly there he was again, this time in the slower lane. I glanced over to the right for just a split second as my car drew up next to his. Apparently our earlier meeting was still churning in his mind. He greeted me through the device of a well-known digital signal. And a snarl. I sped on by.

    Well, I thought, at least I’m finally rid of this character. He didn’t seem to be following me. And besides, it’s a big, long turnpike. A few minutes later I reached my exit and began to ascend the windy ramp that would take me off to the side, then over the roadway and up to the row of collectors. Eight lanes. I chose the shortest line. Guess who pulled in behind me.

    Cautiously, with an unobtrusive elbow on the doorsill, I locked the car, all the time shifting my eyes to the rear view mirror. He sat there, glaring at me, agitated but not making any move to get out of his car.

    Four cars idled ahead of me. Then three, then two. I contemplated my options. I knew I had a chance to do something unique. I realized the opportunity that was mine at this moment.

    One car left and now I rolled up to the collector. I took a final look at the grim face in the rear view mirror and then I did it.

    I paid his toll.

    Traffic was heavy on the four lane freeway I entered, but I noticed the guy’s car behind me in the distance. I zipped ahead in the passing lane, and could see him weaving in and out of both lanes in a safe but determined effort to catch up with me. It took about five miles of deft maneuvering, but finally he pulled up on my right, both of us clipping along at a steady 65.

    He bowed his head slightly and tapped the side of his eyebrow in an informal, grateful salute. An acknowledgment.

    I smiled, and nodded.

    * * *

    This is not a chapter about macho behavior. It’s not a chapter about driving etiquette or controlling one’s temper.

    It’s a chapter about choices. Choices: how to view a situation. How to respond to another’s behavior. And how to understand, how to interpret a particular event.

    And I’ll add another yet concept to the equation. A concept that really should be included in everyone’s vocabulary: It’s the word “reframing.”

    I like that word. I learned it from my wife, who uses it all the time in her psychotherapy practice. It’s a terrific concept in the way it suggests that a situation, an event, a problem or a challenge can be viewed and understood in a variety of ways. When faced with a dilemma, we often see it in only one way, with only traditional options, none of which may be satisfactory.

    Reframing is the creative and very helpful process of looking at something in a different light, from a very different perspective. And with that change in perspective come different solutions.

    The decision to respond to a macho challenge by the inventive use of diversion and humor…paying a toll…serves as one example of how an encounter may be reframed, how it was redirected in a totally new, healthier way. (And keeping the automobile analogy alive for another moment, lest you think I’m “tooting my own horn” with this illustration, believe me, the times I ended up doing the clever, right thing at just the right moment are memorable primarily because they are so few and far between.)

    In our journeys through life, sometimes skipping, sometimes slogging, reframing can become an invaluable tool.

    Consider the woman who grew up as the daughter of a full-time working mother and who, all through her childhood, felt an oppressive sense of regret, abandonment, self-pity over the fact that whenever she looked out at the audience listening to her choral concerts, whenever she participated in a sporting event, whenever chaperones accompanied school trips, other kids’ mothers usually seemed to have the time to attend, but her mother, except on rare occasions, was always missing.

    For years, decades, her mother’s absence, her mother’s perceived indifference, her mother’s neglect weighed heavily on this woman. Resentment invaded her relationship with her mother, and she just could not muster the generosity of spirit to forgive her.

    Until the daughter had a revelation of sorts. A reframing. It was at that point that she realized her mother had made difficult choices, painful choices born not out of malice but out of love.

    Her mother worked long hours to earn money so that her daughter could dress in clothes that would not embarrass her among her peers. She decided to work so that her daughter could attend dancing lessons with her friends and not feel left out, could go to summer camp and not spend lonesome summers in the city, could have proper dental work that would enable her to smile her stunning smile without a second thought.

    The daughter began to understand her mother in a totally different perspective. And through this reframing, instead of resenting her mother, she began to appreciate her.

    Same daughter. Same mother. Same history. Changed understanding. And it meant all the difference in the world for these two women and their relationship.

    Another example: A woman I know had a mastectomy years ago. After the usual rounds of subsequent treatment, her doctors gave her a very hopeful prognosis. But, of course, there’s always that lingering dark cloud hovering over head.

    Each person faces critical illness in different ways. My friend coped as well as one can with the shock of the discovery of breast cancer and the terrible anxiety that accompanied her every step of the way. She was able to deal successfully with the pain, with the side effects of her treatment. It was the scar that threw her for a loop. For years she felt mortified by that scar, inadequate, imperfect.

    Until one day a very smart person helped my friend reframe the scar. Helped her derive a very different perception of the meaning of the scar. “You’re a strong woman,” the smart person told her. “You fought your illness like a tiger. You worked incredibly hard to help your family through this crisis. You conquered your fear and didn’t allow the cancer to slow the rhythms of your life. You are left with a scar.

    “Can you, perhaps, think of that scar as a badge of courage?”

    A badge of courage. It may not work for some women, but that’s how my friend now understands her scar. She reframed her perception, and it has made a whole world of difference.

    * * *

    Reframing is a private, individual task: it is based on a creative alteration of one’s understanding of a situation, not modification of somebody else’s behavior or feelings. Reframing is something we do in the quiet holiness of our own hearts. It requires a thirst for insight. It insists on an openness to very new ideas. It mandates willingness to change.

    And reframing often requires some real courage. It’s easy to try to change others. It’s much more difficult to try to change the way we perceive the world. But what a healthy, helpful exercise!

    One in which the world won’t change at all.

    But we will.

  9. Pingback: On compassion… | Seeking and Serving

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  11. Derek says:

    Reblogged this on Life is a Journey and commented:
    excellent witness. profound patience.

  12. Linnette says:

    just heard this same message an hour ago from Shawn Boltz from LA. teaching about just showing God’s love to hurt and lost world , being God with skin on.

  13. darashultz says:

    So, so humbled by this. Can’t thank you enough for sharing your experience! I’ll definitely be spreading the word. :))))

  14. Al Black says:

    No comment – your post said it all.

  15. Iris says:

    This same exact situation happened to me except I was already in line and the woman was behind me. She was yelling, making faces at me that I could see from my rear view mirror, insisting I was on my cell phone when I was looking down to get my money ready. I apparently did not close the gap between me and the car in front of me as tightly as she wished, but we were still trapped in the line together with two cars in front of me. I heard her angrily yell her order into the loud speaker behind me and when i finally arrived at the window and told the barista that I wanted to pay for the woman’s order behind me, he actually looked scared and asked me if I was sure. It was around $5.00. I did it. I drove away and never looked back. What a wonderful feeling.

  16. Brenda says:

    Thanks for your willingness to lay aside self and operate as an Ambassador for Christ. May He continue to speak to your heart to bless others.
    This kind of example is needed in our world today. God bless you!!

  17. Ella says:

    Nice story. But please buckle up your dogs, what you’re doing is extremely dangerous. You’re basically giving them a death sentence should you be in an accident and it’s irresponsible both as a driver and as a pet owner.

  18. Blessed Mama says:

    Thank you for this encouragement to be Jesus’ hands and feet. I will be putting a link in an article here: http://abundancehouse.blogspot.com/

  19. I had an experience recently where somebody left me a very nasty note since apparently I parked too close to their car. It really made me stop and think. The person that wrote that note really needed prayers.

  20. Paraphrasing perhaps, but this is close: ‘Be kind. Everyone you meet is dealing with something.’ This is a perfect example of that. Thank you for affirming once again for me that ‘Desiderata’ is one of the most universal and forever writings ever … God bless.

  21. This is beautiful. This is heart-wrenching. Thank you for sharing and inspiring me to pray the same prayer… to see people as God sees them.

    God bless you.
    xoxo

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  23. Shauna says:

    A good reminder to look at others as God sees us and know that we are all on a journey with a story.

  24. TFM says:

    Thank you for this. Thank you.

  25. Sophia says:

    Wow, thank you so much for this. I loved reading your story.

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