“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”
– John 15:13
One evening on my way home from work I stopped by the supermarket to pick up a couple of small items. Being impatient and self-absorbed, I had failed to notice that the checkout lane I was in was closing. When the lady at the register reminded me that her lane was closed I became angry and spoke rudely to her. But that wasn’t the end of my shameful behavior; for the lady later sought me out, going completely out of her way to apologize for my inconvenience. What did I do? Rather than accepting her kind gesture I responded with another unkind remark. It has been almost thirty years since that occurred, but what I did still haunts me.
Our behavior is the result of choices we make, and those choices will always impact someone else for better or worse. Sadly this past week we all witnessed the worst and the best choices in human behavior to the extremes. The evil violence of the bombing that occurred during the Boston marathon senselessly killing and maiming scores of innocent, unsuspecting victims no doubt represents human behavior at its worst. Yet the response showed humanity at its best – caring, compassionate and heroic, people laying down their lives for their fellow man, not only in the Boston bombing episode but also in the equally devastating explosion in West, Texas just a few days later.
None of us I pray will ever be exposed to such extreme tragic experiences as those of this past week. But what about our behavior in the everyday, the ordinary? Consider my own cruel, reckless and shameful remarks toward the supermarket lady. It may seem minor in comparison, a mere misdemeanor. Perhaps, but not as far as I’m concerned. My behavior, too, was the result of a choice I made, a poor one; and I am still haunted by the pained expression on her face. Likewise her behavior toward me was a choice – the right choice to reach out in an act of apology and kindness, which I shamefully rejected. Yet we both impacted each other’s lives. I know I wounded her that day for which I will forever feel ashamed. She, on the other hand, by her kind and compassionate gesture rescued me from my self-centeredness. “Greater love has no one than this . . .”