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Topic: Pride (04/12/04)
TITLE: Incident on a Curved Bench
By Brenda Kern
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Surprisingly enough, I arrived at the movie theater early that evening. I usually run late, but not this time--I had time to sit in the lobby and read my ever-present magazine, nerdy constant reader that I am.
Imagine this lobby with me: it formed more-or-less an L shape, with the bench in question in the shorter arm of the L, the concession stand in the inner corner of the letter, and the main entrance doors across from the concession stand at the outer corner of the L.
And, oh, the décor. Someone had foolishly not fought off the idea to decorate a movie theater lobby in a sort-of futuristic, Space Age theme--but futuristic as imagined in the 1970's, I believe. Several lights strewn hither and yon looked like stretched out lava lamps, and every piece of furniture was shaped, curved, or molded, telling tales of the tragedy of tortured plastic. To add some sparkle, the walls were fashioned by shoving a stone roughly approximating quartz into some kind of tan mortar goo.
So, this was the setting for a lesson to be learned, a story to be shared.
The bench I chose to sit on was shaped more or less like a C, and it had a cushion that was not attached to the bench itself in any way. The open part of the C was facing out, naturally, and I chose to sit toward the right end of the bench. As I read, I shifted my weight slightly, setting off the incident, making me forget all about reading, the movies, and anything other than survival.
That shifting of my weight, mistake number 1, caused the left end of the bench to lift off the ground, pitching me perilously near the right edge of the bench and the floor. I then made mistake number 2, which was to try to adjust to the sudden teeter-totter-like situation by shifting to my left. However, I also must have leaned forward some in my anxiety, because then the support under the fullest part of the curve (nearest the wall) was also off the ground, angling the bench toward the floor and threatening the health of my knees.
As I recall, it was at about this point that I threw both arms up, not to enhance my enjoyment of the ride a la riding a roller coaster, but more like the frantic pinwheeling you might see someone do while on a tightrope.
I was very much in danger of performing a "hat trick": I could have been folded, spindled, and mutilated, all in one little oops moment!
The rest is a blur, but I can summarize: every move I made to right the bench was wrong, every shift caused a new crisis of balance, and I somehow managed to scrape the back of my right hand across the wall and actually draw blood.
The cushion's not being attached did not assist me in my efforts to restore my peaceful dignity.
My natural lack of athletic ability also made its presence known, and the Kern tendency toward klutziness was majestically displayed.
While the bench and I were carrying out our herky-jerky dance of death, random thoughts were tumbling about in my mind:
"Oh, no, don't...don't do that..."
"Woops, that's not right..."
"Oh, I hope nobody's seeing this; I would be SO embarrassed..."
"Oh, ow, that hurt!"
"Wait, wait--it stopped! Whew!"
With as much dignity as I could muster, I smoothed out my clothes, tried to "fix" my hair (noticing the bleeding hand as I did), and cleared my throat while trying to get my breathing and heart rate back into the normal ranges.
Expecting to see an on-looker rushing to my aid, just a tad too late, I prepared the usual round of denials and explanations so familiar to a clumsy person: "Oh, I'm fine, thanks." "That? Oh, that's nothing, I'll just put a Band-Aid on it later." "No, really, I'm just fine! Really!"
Then I snuck a look around.
And no one was there, no one had seen.
The entire incident seemed like it must have been about two minutes in duration (due to panic), but probably actually had lasted around 20 seconds or so, and no one saw or heard a thing.
My relief was mixed with another feeling, something harder to identify. As I collected myself (and my previously airborne purse and magazine, coat and gloves), I thought it through.
And I realized God was trying to tell me something.
Wasn't it funny that I had worried about what I looked like during the wild ride? Not funny ha-ha, but funny, odd. Pride found a way into my thoughts, even during panic. And because of my pride, I didn't cry out for help, calling attention to my problem, my failure, even though another person stepping in, just briefly, was all I really needed to secure the situation.
I'm like that. I am so hesitant to ask for help, because I don't want to appear weak, foolish, or "needy." When a caring someone can see that I'm bleeding, would it really be so bad to actually accept assistance when they ask, "Is there something wrong? Can I help?"
My musings also led me to this question: Are other Christians around me, my brothers and sisters in Christ, also desperately flailing, getting scraped up in the process, but pitching and tilting in silence? And meanwhile, I'm too busy buying candy and soda to notice them?
Isn't it just like Him to find an unexpected way to teach a dual lesson? 1) There is no shame in asking for help, and 2) Be aware of those in your vicinity and their need of a stabilizing force; maybe you can help.
Make that three lessons, and here's the third: when sitting on a curved bench, sit toward the middle and don't move.
April 17, 2004