Special Delivery

“All of the things I ordered should be here on Thursday between 2:15 and 6:15pm,” she said.

My daughter had placed several orders at the end of the year for her business. Seventeen boxes were expected to arrive at our house Thursday with twelve more to come on Friday.

Thursday evening, as the clock was getting nearer to 9 pm, I began to doubt that she was going to get anything. At 9:45, she got the dreaded notification that all of her packages would be arriving on Friday at the same time of day that had been previously promised.

I had already had trouble with this particular delivery company being late and delaying my orders.

“I am going to complain to the company,” I said as I went to bed that night.
“They need to do better business than this. People aren’t going to trust them anymore.”

I had put it out of my mind until the next evening when six o’clock was looming. Both of us had been looking out the window at any slight sound that would indicate the truck with all twenty nine packages had arrived. I felt my irritation growing as I started to assume that no one was going to show for a second time.

I went into the kitchen to prepare dinner when the doorbell rang. I opened the door to find a man hefting four boxes balanced precariously and breathing heavily.

I took what he had and handed them off to my daughter. Just as I was going to launch into my disgruntled customer speech and how unreliable the company he worked for was becoming, he blurted out,

“My dad died. I won’t be able to scan any of these packages.”

I felt my mouth drop open while my mind tried to switch from annoyance mode to sympathy.

“Oh. I am sorry to hear that.”

He stalked back off to his truck that was parked perpendicular to my driveway.

I whirled around and said to my daughter,

“Get your coat and boots! The guy’s dad died. I think we should help him bring everything up to the house so he can get going. He just told me his dad died.”

“What?” was all she said as she grabbed her outerwear and flew out the door with me.

I could hear him moving possessions in the back of the truck. The windchill was wicked and within moments my face and lips felt like stone.

My daughter took a few items to our front door while I waited for another load.

“So when did you find out this news of your dad?”

“Two blocks ago,” he answered matter of fact like.

Instantly, I thought maybe he and his dad weren’t close.

“Was this an expected death?”

I received no response from him, but then I realized he had called someone.

My daughter returned to my side.

“I don’t think he is okay,” I said to her in a hushed tone. “He has to get out of here. He is probably on the phone trying to make funeral arrangements with his family.”

Another round of packages were shoved our way and we each took another trip up the driveway.

To speed up things, I jumped on the truck and began to look through the load with him. He had gotten off his phone as we looked for the last two items that were on the list.

“You said you can’t scan any of these. So, it will look like they weren’t delivered. Will you be able to fix that later? I don’t want you to get in trouble for anything.”

“It will be just fine. I will make sure to adjust the information once I am done for the day.”

“Okay,” I said. “Are you going to be able to get off of work soon?”

“I am almost done with my route for the day,” he said casually. It was like he didn’t really care that one of his parents had just passed away. “Thank you for helping me.”

“Well, this is all too much for one person to handle,” I said. I wasn’t just thinking of all the stuff she had ordered but his situation as well.

My fingers were getting numb as the cold was setting in viciously. “I don’t know how you do this every day. It is freezing in here!” I was trying to help as best as I could. All thoughts of complaining about the delays were the farthest from my mind.  I was finding out quickly that his job was not fun in such brutal weather.

“I think the last two things will be coming tomorrow. I don’t think they are on this truck,” my daughter said to us from the open side door.

With that, I hopped down and said to him,

“I am so sorry that your dad died. I hope you are able to get going now and deal with that.”

He blinked a couple times and then a huge smile appeared.

“No, no no,” he said as a started to laugh. “My dad didn’t die! My diad died.” He held up his scanner.

“This is why I couldn’t scan your boxes. It died two blocks ago.”

“No one is dead then? Your dad isn’t dead?”

“No,” he said again as he bent over with a giggle. “This is called a diad.  My dad didn’t die.”

“Well, that makes me feel better!” I said laughing along with him.

We said goodbye and the warmth of my house never felt so good.

I realized later that because I thought he had lost his dad, my attitude about the delivery being late was forgotten. My perspective had changed just with one simple sentence that I had not heard correctly.

I began to wonder how many times I could have circumvented a negative emotion had I taken a step back and changed my mind before I reacted.  How much time have I wasted on being upset over something that I am not going to remember a week from now? How much of my energy have I given up punching at the air?  We have universal control over how we respond to a situation.

In Proverbs 15:1 it says: “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

I think that when we chose to say something in a way that is peaceful, then we and the receiver are at peace.  When we chose to respond with anger then it not only fuels our fire but the one who is listening has to take in an earful.  Even though I looked quite foolish dashing and rushing trying to help out a person who I thought had a death in his family, I was thankful that I hadn’t gone ahead with what I had planned on saying to him.  At the end of it, I had wound up laughing and probably made that guy’s day a lot happier.

Only God can make a lesson come like that in a special delivery.

 

 

 

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Blowing Smoke

I unpacked my overnight bag and immediately put the items into the wash with extra soap poured on for good measure. My hair reeked of the smell, but I couldn’t throw myself in with the clothes so a different kind of scrubbing was needed.

Any type of establishment that allows smoking inside the premises leaves its trace long after one has departed. Standing outside in hurricane type gales would not even do the trick to remove the odor.

So it was after a night away that I found myself hurriedly transferring the offensive garments to the machine and thanking myself for quitting the habit at the age of eleven .

What would have happened to me if I would have let it take hold? I wondered.

One day while at a friends house, unattended by any responsible adult, we were left to our own devices.  I was sitting in the living room when she rounded the corner with a lit cigarette between her long skinny fingers.  She sat down next to me, handed me one and said,

“Here.  Try this.”

“Where did you get this from?” I asked.

“My mom’s room. She doesn’t even know when I take some.”

I felt a slight twinge in my stomach.  I wasn’t the type to steal, lie or do anything that suggested shadiness.  However, before I knew it, I had white puffs coming out of my mouth that I was trying to fashion into different shapes.

I didn’t go into a coughing rage or choking fit.  I watched what she did, repeated it and took one drag after another.  Once down to the end of it, we both ran them under cold water and threw them outside into the trash.

That is when the guilt hit.  I had just smoked a cigarette!  All the way home, I wondered,

Would they smell it on me?  Would I look different when I walked in?  Would my mother look me in the eye and know what I had been up to?  

Anxiety overwhelmed me as I strode in the door and made a quick turn into my bedroom.

That entire evening as I ate dinner, worked on my homework and changed into my pajamas, I prepared myself mentally for the bomb to drop.  Nothing happened.

The next day I found myself in the same set of circumstances and the days to follow.  Soon, it was becoming a regular afternoon occurrence to which she invited another girl to join us.  My worries became non-existent as my confidence grew that my parents did not have a clue as to what I was doing.  I generally limited myself to one, but with the three of us smoking in the same room, it would get hazy fairly quickly.

One evening, while eating dinner, my dad said,

“I bet when Chris grows up she is going to smoke.”

It was like he jabbed a hot poker into my chest.

“Why?  What? No I wouldn’t.”

He slurped down a spaghetti noodle and said,

“I think you will.”

I became instantly angry with him for unfairly judging me.

“I would not!  I will not smoke!” I raised my voice much louder than I normally would.

How dare he look across the table and decide what I was going to do when I was an adult? Then, I remembered.  I was already smoking.

“I think you will, ” he said again.  “And anger shows guilt.”

It was like the ceiling fell on top of me.

He knew!  He knew!  How did he know?  I thought I had covered my tracks carefully by spraying myself with perfume and chomping on mint gum.

“When someone is angry like that it shows they are guilty.”

“I am not guilty,” I said looking at my carrots on my plate.

My mom saw how upset I was getting, so she added,

“She won’t smoke.  Smoking is bad for your health.  Chris is too smart for that.”

Oh, boy.  I finished my meal and slunked away.

The following day when I was offered a cigarette, I declined.

“I think my mom and dad might know,” I told her.  “I am quitting right now.”

For a few weeks I was ridiculed by the two smoking partners, but the situation changed when the thief was caught stealing from her mother’s stash.  Fortunately, I was not a part of their group that had grown to a club of eight.  I guess, lifting one or two goes unnoticed, but that amount got her into trouble.

The subject was never discussed in my household again until I was in my twenties.

“How did you know I was smoking?” I asked my dad.

“What do you mean?”

“You know. That time I was sitting at the table and you kept saying I was going to smoke when I grew up, and I got mad. You said anger shows guilt.”

“I was just joking.  You were smoking?”

“Yes!  And, I thought you knew I was so I quit the next day because I thought you were on to me.”

“No.  I was teasing you.”

“You and mom really didn’t know what I was doing?”

“Nope.”

I am grateful to this day for the intervention of an unseen source on my behalf.   We hear of statistics of many dying from lung cancer due to this, and yet if you stop in traffic long enough and glance around, chances are you will see someone who has gotten caught into the addiction.  Most likely, someone made the offer and they took it.  Just like I did.

The other day while in the grocery store, the cashier said,

“You don’t drink pop?”

She held up a bottle of an antioxidant fruit beverage.

“No.  I quit drinking it.  And, that is my substitution.”

“Is it good?”

“Yes, but quitting wasn’t easy.  I am okay now, but it took a few days.”

“I know how that goes.  I quit smoking a year ago.  Cold turkey.  I decided one day not to do it anymore, and I had been smoking for awhile.  I started before my teens.”

“You quit without any type of help?”

“Yes.  My mom told me I would never be able to do it.”

I asked the obvious,

“Does your mom smoke?”

“Oh, yes, really bad.”

“That is why she told you that you couldn’t do it because if you were successful, then she would have no excuse not to quit too.”

Once out in the parking lot, I thought about the power of that mother smoking and discouraging her daughter from doing something healthy.  What a triumph to overcome the cigarettes in the face of such adversity.  Not everyone has the “I will show you” attitude.  In fact, many of us shrink down under the presence of a negative thinker with a bad outlook on life, and we take on their pessimistic stench.

How many times have you gone into an environment in a peaceful state and were inundated with harsh words, a sharp bark or a put down only to find your sunny disposition gone within seconds? Suddenly, the world is dark and unfavorable.  The next thing you know you have a headache or some other sort of pain in your body, and maybe a whole week goes by where you find yourself depressed and out of sorts. All because you allowed someone else’s foul ideas to permeate your spirit.

Here is a possible solution to not living like that anymore.

Above all else, guard your heart,
    for everything you do flows from it.
24 Keep your mouth free of perversity;
    keep corrupt talk far from your lips.
25 Let your eyes look straight ahead;
    fix your gaze directly before you.
26 Give careful thought to the[c] paths for your feet
    and be steadfast in all your ways. (Proverbs 4:23-26;NLT)

Here we are given a wonderful answer to how we can combat and protect ourselves from being pulled into the opinion or drama of another.  If we stay connected closely to the Creator and only exist to please heaven, then one can remain on the outside of the mess without stepping into it.  A love filled relationship with God provides a way for us to see the genuine goodness of life and avoid those who are just blowing smoke.

 

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