Recently, I wrote about the trip Kory and I took to Santa Barbara to celebrate our 16th wedding anniversary.While we were there, we had the privilege of spending a Sunday afternoon as “VIPs” at the Dallas Cowboys Training Camp in Oxnard.
We arrived about an hour before the scrimmage started and settled in at the fence line of the end zone to watch, along with about 150 other “VIP” Cowboys fans, most of whom grew up in California and have spent years following the Cowboys as a result of the team’s presence in Southern California each summer.
On the opposite side of the fence, between the football field and us, were another 30 people or so who were watching the game from the end zone. We were “VIPs,” but apparently, they were very “VIPs”. About 10 of them stood directly in front of us.
To my right was one of the tiniest women I’ve ever seen. She was maybe 4’10”, resting her chin on top of the fence as the scrimmage began. It was difficult for me to see around the fans standing in the end zone, but for her, it was impossible.
Calmly, she caught the attention of one of the men and said,
“Sir, would you all mind sitting down? None of us can see anything back here with you standing in front of us.”
He looked at her with a blank stared. Said nothing. Turned around. Laughed. And remained standing.
For two hours.
It was infuriating to watch. But it was also an interesting indictment on the human condition. Because, as time wore on, each of his friends got tired of standing. One by one, they began to sit, making the field more visible for us. But this guy was determined to stand. Right in front of the girl who was 4’10” for the entire scrimmage.
Even if his legs were tired, he was insistent on making a point.
He was a very “VIP,” and no one was going to ask him to sit down.
It was rude
I got another dose of rude last week.
I was passing time during the morning rush hour sipping coffee and answering email at a local La Madeleine.
The east side of the restaurant included a long row of windows overlooking the parking lot, and the sun was pouring in. It was bright. Hot. And the glare made it difficult to see the screen of a laptop. So as guests sat down at each of the tables, one by one, they drew the shades on the windows, until all the shades were closed.
At one of the tables, there sat two ladies. I’m guessing one of them was in her mid-sixties. The other was in her mid-fifties. They were having breakfast together and enjoying their conversation.
A man sat down at the table next to them. He, too, was probably in his mid-sixties. After setting his breakfast on the table and returning his tray, he walked over to the windows and opened the shade of one of them. The sunlight poured in, shining right into the older woman’s eyes.
Casually, she turned around and asked him if he would mind closing the shade.
And you would have thought she’d asked him to give her his firstborn.
Y’all. He flipped out.
There in front of about 30 eye witnesses, he started chastising her, complaining about the fact that all the shades were drawn and there wasn’t a window in the restaurant where he could enjoy the view.
Of the parking lot.
I was proud of the woman for remaining calm and trying not to engage him. And ultimately, she won thanks to the intervention of an employee.
The shade was drawn.
And her breakfast continued without the blinding glare.
But the man was rude.
Since then, I’ve been thinking a lot about both of these incidents. The man who refused to sit. And the man who insisted to cause a scene. Because they serve as evidence.
We live in a rude culture.
Respect is a lost art.
And some folks are so self-absorbed that they have become desensitized to the preciousness of others. They are out for Number One at all cost. All the time.
It’s so sad.
But it’s not the end of the story.
If you have followed us here at Confessions Of A Pastor’s Family long enough, or if you’ve attended a church we’ve served, or taken a parenting class with us, then you know Kory and I have a thing with shopping carts. We encourage people to return them after they’ve loaded their purchases into their car at the store.
In fact, we’ve talked about this enough, that it’s fairly common for one of us to get a text or a message on our Facebook wall from someone that includes a photo of them putting their shopping cart away or of a parking lot full of unmanned shopping carts left in parking spaces or on the medians.
It makes us smile that the message sticks.
But our soapbox about the shopping carts isn’t about the shopping carts themselves.
It’s about an opportunity the shopping carts represent.
To demonstrate respect in a rude culture.
Because we’ve strayed so far from the art of respect that the littlest respectful gestures shine like beacons in the darkness.
Each of them present opportunities for us to define God to the world so that the world might find God.
Paul knew this to be true as he encouraged the church at Philippi:
Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world . . . . – Philippians 2:15.
There are lots of big things we can do to define God to the world. And we should be about the business of taking the leaps of faith necessary to do those big things we feel led to do.
But there are so many more little things we can do every day to make God known.
Like sitting down when the person behind us can’t see.
Like pulling the shade to make another restaurant patron’s breakfast more enjoyable.
Like letting someone with two items go in front of us at the grocery store when our cart is filled to the brim.
Like picking up trash in a parking lot even if it doesn’t belong to us.
Like sweeping under our table at a restaurant so the waitress doesn’t have to clean up after our pre-schoolers. (Ahem.)
Like greeting someone in an elevator rather than playing on our phone.
And yes. Like returning our shopping cart.
These are little little things. But these opportunities and so many more like them are presented to us every day. Let’s notice them. Let’s seize them. Let’s leverage them for God. Let’s take every little opportunity that comes our way to make God known in a rude culture.
Because when we do, we shine as lights in the world.
What seemingly small thing can you do today to make God known in your community?