The large cardboard box looked a little worse for wear. As I leaned over it with scissors in hand, I wondered if the fragile items within had survived the delivery! The first box in my large order had arrived in perfect condition! Nothing on the outside of this second box indicated that the contents were “fragile.” Not a good sign. Not one mark indicating which end was “up”! Opening the first flap, I saw the contents piled up to one end, in the shape of a gigantic wave a surfer would have craved. Not enough bubble wrap, I observed, and too much empty space for the fragile plates and cups to move around in! This looked like trouble, to say the least! Carefully lifting out one of the wrapped dishes, the sound of broken pieces came to my ears.
“If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It”
A week before, the crystal store’s “clearance sale” and “no shipping” offer for online orders had made me jump at the chance to fill my depleted “Gift Shelf,” which is what I call the area–having grown over the years to several shelves of my bedroom closet–where I keep gifts of various kind and purpose. Online shopping appeals to me, because I love shopping at my own convenience, especially from home. Having a gift shelf has served me well. I’m thrilled when I can find unique and special gifts, and be able to wait for a sale to buy them (in this case, a sale and no shipping), and also spread out my spending over the year. It’s a joy to be ready to give when the time comes, and to shop in my closet, not having to make a special trip and pay outrageous prices, just because I “have to have a gift and I have to have it now”! Shopping the crystal store’s clearance items, I fell in love with the etched crystal platters and matching bowls, and also the pretty porcelain accent plates and cups. With no shipping, I stocked up on the heavy items. The shipment came in two boxes. The first box’s contents were in great shape, though the individual boxes looked a little dilapidated. This second box, arriving a few days later, was not sounding so good. As I unpacked the box, I heard the glass fragments clinking together inside the bubble wrap! After assessing the extent of the damage, I made a call to customer service, and then spent the better part of half an hour on the phone with a young woman named April, carefully identifying for her each broken item, and arranging for pickup of the box of broken dishes. A complaint had to be made to the shipping company, and a reorder of the dishes.
The Kindness of Strangers
I don’t know why, but suddenly, as we spoke, I became aware of how kind the woman’s voice was, and gentle, of how many times she had said how sorry she was that this had happened. Of course, this was her job, but it occurred to me that, probably, this woman dealt with a good many irate customers each day, perhaps some said mean or ugly things to her, or swore at her. Perhaps I was the first one who had spoken kindly to her all day! Though I was disappointed that the dishes were broken, I wasn’t upset at all, and I treated her in a considerate manner, but just what I would call common courtesy. I pondered that “common courtesy” is really “Christian courtesy,” and the golden rule lived out. She was matching my tone. Ending our conversation, I was pleased to find out that all the items broken were in stock and could be replaced, and I hung up the phone glad to expect a replacement shipment within the week, with her assurance that she had placed a request for extra packing material this time.
Responding To Brokenness
As I thought about the broken dishes, I thought how easy it had been for me to respond with patience and kindness when I received them, and that I wasn’t even tempted to lash out in anger against anyone. But, I asked myself, “How do I, or Christians, in general, respond when we’re faced with other things in our life which are ‘broken’: broken vehicles, broken appliances, broken toys or tools; or on a deeper level, broken promises, broken relationships, broken homes or even broken bodies? Do we lash out in anger? Do we become impatient, even angry and bitter? And how do we treat those around us when this happens, even when the thing broken is small or insignificant? Especially, how do we treat those we live with? Perhaps we work harder to treat strangers with kindness, but our families suffer every outpouring of our indignation. Do our families have to deal with our displeasure whenever something doesn’t go our way? As Christians, we have the Spirit of Christ within us. This should cause our responses to be different from the world’s, and produce a peace within us, and the ability to bring healing and wholeness to those living in the midst of a broken world.
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