Our daughter Beth lives next door with her family of husband, brother-in-law and five little boys, and if her lights are on, I can rarely resist checking in. She has four lazyboy chairs in her living room, perfectly situated for conversation and when it is after 10 p.m., as it was tonight when I turned off of our laneway and into her driveway, her crazily active boys are sure to be all in bed. Perfect for a good night chat. I can't tell you what a blessing it is to have such a good friend living right next door.
Tonight we talked about a number of things that were concerning us. She told me about how she was addressing a particular issue and I told her how I was impressed at her assertiveness and the tenacity to see a wrong righted where she had a God-given responsibility to do so.
"How come you're like that?" I asked. "What gives you the courage to stand up for yourself until the issue is dealt with?" I was thinking of my own passive nature (passive doesn't mean quiet, necessarily!) I knew I would have backed down in the same situation, while also knowing that I would have felt frustrated and probably wounded to some degree or another. Not Beth. She was addressing the issue with clarity and intentionality and not letting go until she has done all that she can do.
I was surprised when she said, "You taught me that." And then said there had been a defining moment in her life.
She immediately took me back to when she was in her mid teens - nearly 20 years ago. We had stopped at an Arby's restaurant in Newmarket. We ordered takeout, just before closing time and realized too late that her friend Lorraine had not received the apple turnover she had paid for. I went back to the door of the restaurant to let them know of their mistake, but they had just locked up and were pointedly ignoring my knocks. If it had been my apple turnover, I would have just left, but Beth remembers me saying to her that "Lorraine should get what she paid for". I was not going to let those workers inside the restaurant rest until she got was coming to her.
I banged louder and louder, watching the people inside continue to ignore us, until finally they could stand it no more. After a full five mintues, a disgruntled young man in an Arby's uniform ambled over to the door. He said, "We're closed," as though I hadn't noticed after five minutes of banging on a locked door! I quickly explained the reason for my attempts at after-hours entry, a turnover was popped into a bag and handed over and we were on our way.
It wasn't a big deal. If it had happened to me I would certainly have let it go. But when it was a kid being taken advantage of, something kicked in and I had to hang on - until we got the desired result. I had completely forgotten about the incident. In fact, I'm sure I would have had trouble recalling it even a month later, never mind going on 20 years now. But to Beth it was defining moment in her young life.
It struck me deeply how that silly little incident could have such a deep and lasting impact. It was no big deal, truly. And yet God used it to deeply etch some character into a young heart - character that he knew he would need for a specific purpose one day.
We never know what effect our actions and attitudes will have on the young lives who are watching. What to me was a small and an entirely forgettable incident was something that she would never forget and had profoundly influenced her future and the wonderful person she came to be in adulthood. It really makes you think...