Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Patience (08/21/08)
TITLE: Lining up
By Jennifer Reid
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Anna is the best cashier, small, friendly and efficient. She moves her lines smoothly through the cash, greeting her customers but never lingering. When I shop, I seek out Anna’s line, counting heads isn’t necessary; Anna will beat the other cashiers for speed of service. Often when I see her, I am flying through on my way home from work, clergy shirt still on, anxious to organize dinner before I leave for the parish again. Anna asked once about my black shirt with its white tab. With a grin she questioned whether or not I was Roman Catholic. It couldn’t be, she knew, but she wondered. I explained that I was Anglican and she was confused more. Church of England? She had heard of that. She nodded, handed my credit card back and I rushed off.
Returning home one Saturday, having completed 3 weddings and one funeral, I stopped by the store to get the buns I needed to feed the 16 guests coming for dinner. I had one hour to be home, set the table, wipe down the bathrooms, shower and change before the door bell would ring. One hour. Sixty minutes. Racing in to the bakery department, I grabbed the buns and made a dash to the check out. Six people in the express line and four people the lane beside it. Anna was on another lane and there were only three shoppers, but each had a cart full of items. I hesitated. I paced up and down the row trying to guess which one would be faster. I bet on Anna.
She was on her game and the items of the people in front of me flew past the scanner and into the bags. Anna didn’t look up but chatted about the weather and the increasing price of food as she processed each person through the line. Finally, I was before her with my bags of buns. I glanced at my watch. I had 48 minutes left. I smiled at Anna and said, “I am glad to see you today!”
Anna hesitated, my bag of buns in hand, dangling over the scanner yet to be processed into the register. “Oh, oh…I’m glad to see you today”. Her face changed before me, the brightness was drained and she put the buns back on the counter.
“Oh no” I thought. I had seen that look before. This was going to be a day I wished I had taken my clergy shirt off. Dear God, weren’t all the services I had done today enough? My guests were arriving soon, my husband waiting for me and frankly, I was in too big of a rush for whatever was about to happen.
“I wanted you to know, I have cancer.” Anna looked at me and the tears began to flow in her eyes. “You are the only priest I ever see, I know you pray. Will you pray for me?”
In an instant the line up of people behind me seemed to disappear. My heart stopped racing and time stood still. I reached out my hand and mumbled something I hoped would offer consolation. I asked about treatment options and listened to her describe the horrors that lay ahead. Did she want me to say a prayer here, now?
She nodded and we held hands and prayed.
The house was still clean enough to welcome my guests, I got my shower and the buns were on the table well before the burgers were ready. The need to hurry was unnecessary. A moment of patience allowed me to see God through the eyes of a grocery store clerk who needed Him. I needed Him too.
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