Trouble Is Brewing

The aroma of coffee beans permeated my hair and clothing the second I walked in the door. Like a warm, friendly hug it engulfed me. The tables were loaded with drinkers of all sorts sipping on frothy concoctions that were worth every inflated dime. I saw my good friend standing by the counter eyeing her choices on the board.  She was having a hard time deciding what she wanted because this wasn’t her usual drive thru order.  This was a legitimate experience that required more from her than just saying,

“I will take the number 1.”

No, this was a face to face encounter with another human being versus hanging out the car window yelling into a box.  A treat this great comes with much contemplation.

“I love coffee. I love it,”  she said as I watched her eyes scan the board.

“What are you having?” she asked.

“I am having a medium iced peach black tea with a shot of raspberry.”

“That sounds good.  But, I love coffee. ”

After much travail, in which I thought she was going to opt for a fancy whipped up drink on steroids, she said,

“Coffee.  Black.   With a little cream.”

I think she went back and forth on the cream, but I was preoccupied getting out my card to pay.

Both of us were ecstatic to be meeting not only because we hadn’t seen each other for awhile but because it was free time.  No responsibilities and pure freedom.

It wasn’t difficult to find ourselves quickly wrapped up in discussions over writing, talking about God, and how our lives were progressing.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a woman enter the shop. It was one of those subtle things that happen but you don’t really recall the details of it until later.

We continued to talk, and she began telling me a story from her childhood.  Usually most of our time together is spent telling our true life stories.  Some funny, some sad, but we always leave each other feeling better just for having been together for a little while.

I was slightly aware that the woman who had come in was going table to table and talking to the patrons.  I was listening to my friend speak, but I was somewhat distracted as I watched people get out their wallets and go into their purses and hand her cash.

As she made her way closer to us, I didn’t give my friend any indication that I was overhearing or seeing what was going on around us.  My mind and eyes went from the thief making her way to our side of the room to trying to stay focused on what was being said.

I watched stealthily as she hit on a couple next to us.  Again, I made no mention of this to my friend who continued on talking.

When she sidled up to us, I kept my eyes locked straight ahead.  I refused to give her eye contact.

“I need gas money,” she barked.

She was glaring at my friend who responded by gulping and grabbing her purse to rummage for loose change.

I moved my head in slow motion so I could take in her attire. Her attitude was in full broadcast.

“I ran out of gas.  I need gas for my car.”

I saw her lick her lips as my friend handed over cash just like all the other people had done.

She turned to look at me.

“You don’t have cash?  You don’t have anything to give me?” Her annoyance was running high because I hadn’t moved into action to do her bidding.

I felt like I was in a school play yard and the class bully was attempting to take my lunch money. There was no humility or even a ‘please’.  Her approach was aggressive and intimidating.

I looked at my wide eyed friend who had conformed, and I saw the unspoken pleading for me to hand over what was being demanded.

“What color is your car?”  I asked.

She took a slight step back.

“What?” she asked with a sneer.

“I asked you the color of your car.”

“Ah-Ah-Ah-Bl, I mean red,” she snapped.

“What type of car is it?” I said immediately trying to limit her time to think.  Most people are able to say the color and make of their car without much thought.

“Ah- Ah-Ah-What difference does this make?” she snarled.

“What type of car do you drive?” I repeated not blinking.

“I uh, drive a red Pontiac.”

“Where are you stranded?  What are you going to use to put the gas into?  You don’t have a container.”

“I am going to buy a gas can!  Are you going to give me money or not?!”

“There are no stores around here to buy a gas can from.”

As she continued to retreat, her voice was becoming so loud that conversations ceased as we went back and forth.  My questions were making her lies come to light.

“Before I give you money, I am actually trying to help you solve your problem.  I don’t know how you are going to put gas in your car without having something to put it in.”

Realizing that I was exposing her to all those who had just believed her sob story, she shouted,

“I don’t need your money!”

Then, she looked at my friend and screeched,

“Thank YOU for helping me!”

Like that was supposed to make me feel embarrassed in public for not helping.  She ran as quickly as she could out the door and that ended her shift working the room.

When I turned back to my friend, she was shaking her head in disbelief and the couple at the table next to us began to argue.

“Why did you give that lady any money?”  he asked.

“Because she said she was out of gas!”

“She was lying! Why did you listen to her?!  You gave her a lot of money!”

“How was I supposed to know she wasn’t telling the truth?”

They had overheard my entire interaction with the petty criminal and realized they had been scammed.

“So many things get triggered when someone talks to me like that,” my friend said.  “I have had experiences in my past where people have bullied me so I just give them what they want so they will go away.  That is why I gave her the money.”  I could tell she felt bad about her decision now that the dust had settled.

“She was pretty intimidating, so I could see why you did what she wanted you to do.”

I sat for a moment and thought back over the entire exchange.  From the time she walked in the door, I knew that something was not legitimate about the lady.  That still, small voice inside of me was saying: Don’t do what she says.  The line of questioning I put her under was not preplanned and happened spontaneously.

It was similar to breathing. I don’t consider where my next breath is coming from.  It just shows up.

To live like this is the ultimate way to peace because it takes the dilemma out of things.  I like to help people who are in need, but I do not like to assist those who are ripping off the public.  Her yelling at me as if I was a cold hearted individual not willing to help was meant to humiliate me, and I have to say for a couple seconds she did make me feel like a low life. However, I had uncovered so many falsehoods in her story, I was easily able to shake off that notion of myself.

In this day and age of media, we are being told what to believe and how to believe it in the hopes that we will make our decisions based on what we see with our physical eyes and hear with our ears.

Proverbs 20:12 says,

“Ears to hear, and eyes to see-both are gifts from the Lord.” (NLT)

To embrace this wise saying means a wonderful thing.  We all have a powerful second set of senses connected to the spiritual realm that if utilized will help us separate the authentic from fabrications.

We know that God loves us, and we know that prayer helps to lead us on the right path when we have a decision to make.  The combination of that unfailing help of heaven and being willing to take a minute or two to quiet down and wait for an answer to come can make all the difference in the world.  Many times we are blinded by the raging noise from our televisions and radio.  We listen to all the voices telling us what to do instead of going inward and having the honest answer surface.

I didn’t have time to sit and ponder my decision as this person made her way over to our table that day.  However, I had been regularly practicing the quieting of my mind when faced with options to choose from.   With that in operation, I was able to easily identify the truth from fiction.  According to the verse above, we can tap into that supernatural vision and allow God to work on our behalf when trouble is brewing.

 

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Crossing the Line

“Give it baaaack!” she screamed as he yanked the scarf from her hand and whizzed away on his skates.

From where I stood, I could see his devil smile as he was encircled by his dark band of friends who congratulated him on his successful mission of disrupting us. It had been going on all afternoon.

A group of us had decided to spend our warm February Saturday at an ice rink in our neighborhood to visit and get some much needed fresh air after being trapped in school all week. We weren’t interested in catching the attention of the boys who shared our sixth grade classroom, but they were determined to annoy us. We had spent almost every waking moment with them and didn’t want to be around them for a minute longer. This was way before selfies and the idea of making oneself the center of attention.  We preferred the idea of enjoying life and the freedom of just being ourselves without putting on a show for the world to see.

We wanted to be out in the sun, talk about silly things, laugh and enjoy a small slice of freedom before the school bell would soon ring before we knew it. But, the creeps who were on the ice with us that day had other plans.

It brought this group of six creatures great joy to skitter by, call us names, grab hats off of heads, and rip off gloves from unsuspecting fingers just so the chase would be on. They knew they could out-skate us as they laughed in response to the shrieks of their various victims.

I had taken notice of what they were doing and kept myself aware of where they were at all times. Attempts were made to take some of my winter wear, but they were unsuccessful as I would turn away just in time so they would come up empty handed. However, I did have to hunt down a few of these perpetrators to help my companions retrieve their stolen items.  We were dealing with a bunch of immature idiots whose brain development had not yet reached its full potential.  If you have ever read the book, “Lord of the Flies” it was playing itself out in real time in a public park.

As the day wore on, our desire to stay waned and we were exhausted from trying to avoid them.  We had positioned ourselves in the farthest spot away, but they kept on with their stupid games.  We decided to give it up and go back to the warming house for our boots.  Noticing that their prey was departing, the six of them skated directly in front of us and formed a line.  The six of us formed a line and linked arms.  We weren’t so sure what they had planned except we were no longer going to passively stand by and let them torture us.

“Don’t cross this line!” one of them commanded.

He took the heel of his hockey skate and etched a line between us and them.  He returned to stand by his friends while leaning on his hockey stick.

It gave new meaning to the phrase Cold War as each of us refused to back down.

“And, what if we do?” one of the girls asked.

“Just don’t you dare!” a boy shot back.

“Who says we can’t?” another girl asked.

“We do!” a boy said.

To this day, I don’t know what prompted my actions, but I unlinked my arms and skated to the edge of the border.  All eyes were on me as I deliberately put the toe of my skate directly over their line.

I locked eyes with the leader who had so brazenly decided he could tell us our coming and going.  His eyes changed from wide to an angry squint and he let out a hair raising howl that indicated his burning rage toward my rebellious act.  My body was moving before my mind had taken a chance to process what was happening.  I saw him lunge at me slightly, but I had escaped his wrath by being one step ahead of him.

As I glided on the ice as fast as I could, his presence behind me was apparent with loud sharp breathing sounds.  The muscles in my legs were burning, but I knew if I paused I would be overtaken.  As in any race, it is a known rule not to look back at your competition, but my curiosity took over.  I thought,

What is he really going to do to me if he catches up to me?

I glanced over my left shoulder just in time to see his hockey stick above my head like a hatchet.  And, then, I was flat on the ice with a searing, throbbing pain by my eye that was unbearable.  Instinctively, I shielded myself from further physical punishment, but he had apparently skated off after clubbing me down.

“Are you okay?”  I heard a friend of mine say in my ear.

I was not moving after being violently smacked, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to see the damage that had been done to my face.

She coaxed me to a kneeling position and looked at my injury.

“I think you better go home right now.”

I could tell by the look on her face that she was shocked but trying not to scare me.

There was no blood, but the pulsating sensation in that particular area was increasing especially as I got up and wobbled to the warming house.

I quietly changed and made the walk home.  When I came into the house, I immediately burst into the tears I had been holding in.  I had not wanted to look like a sniveling cry baby in front of my friends and worse yet, the boys.

Through the tears, my mom tilted my head from side to side making her medical assessment.

“Who did this to you?  How did this happen?  The skin isn’t broken so you don’t need stitches.  You need ice on that right now.”

While I tried to control my emotions, she began cracking ice out of the trays to make an ice pack.

“Who did this?”

“A boy,” I replied.

“Why?”

I explained the entire story.

“I think we need to call his parents.”

“No,” I said.

“Why?”

“I just don’t want you to.”

By this time, my dad had come into the kitchen to see the greenish purple bruising that was forming around my left eye.

“Who gave you the shiner?”

“A boy and his hockey stick.”

Both he and my mom insisted on trying to call the parents, but I wouldn’t let them.

Two days later, I was back in school sporting a swollen eye with a horrible color to match.  As I walked past the boy who had inflicted this upon me, I saw him put his head down in a shameful way.  He did this every time our paths crossed in the hallway, and in the classroom, he never made eye contact with me at all. I think he had expected my parents to call his and probably was waiting for the inevitable punishment to follow.

It was apparent that his rash actions had led him to live with the black clouds of guilt and remorse. Without a verbal apology, I could see this in his body language toward me. His daily misery was almost worse than my physical injury. The boy who had been so in charge and intimidating a few days prior was now under the crushing weight of knowing he had hit a girl like a coward from behind.

I didn’t speak of it, and other than the ones who knew about it, no one else was aware of who had done this to me.  Even though I kept it to myself, one boy of the group repeatedly teased me and called me ‘brusier’ every chance he could.  While the other boys would laugh, the one who had caused the pain would look away, and I would be made fully aware again of his inward acknowledgment that he regretted doing this to me.  In the past, he would have joined in on the merriment, but his heart had changed on some level.

Sometimes, the act of hurting someone and the regret can be punishment enough. Often, there is no way to go back in time to undo the damage, but going forward, a decision can be made to treat others better.  At his young age, he probably didn’t know how to deal with the struggle of being sorry, yet, not wanting to look weak in front of his friends.

The black eye healed but a scar remained that has now been lost in a sea of crow’s feet.  As I apply mascara or eye shadow, I can faintly see the mark that was made so long ago from my act of courageously crossing the line.

 

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