Some personal events of others can create an aftermath which lingers so long we wonder if they don’t land upon our souls and leave an instant, lasting impression.
When I was in my 20s, I helped a mediator from time to time. I would do anything from fill up candy dishes to speak with clients. I specifically remember it was summer break and especially hot outside when a young mother arrived at the office with her two children. I set out a small basket of toys from the muggy closest and gathered a few suitable snacks from the kitchen to give to the young kids. Young children typically did not come to the appointments, so I thought it was rather odd they were here. I did not know what this particular case was about, but I did have a particular feeling the stack of papers on my desk was not going to be touched until they left. I was just about to sit on the rug to play with them when I was called in from behind closed doors by my boss.
I could tell the young mother was trying to stop herself from crying. She had only been in the office for less than 15 minutes. Noticing a petite pink tissue crumbled in her palm, I took a new box of tissues out from under the cabinet and handed it to her. In doing so, it was as if she gave herself permission to fill up the dry tissues with tears. She cried and cried.
I looked over at my boss to see what she how she was going to respond. I could tell my boss was uncomfortable and felt something, but I could not figure out why she was not going to this hurting woman, or at least reaching out to her across the table. What did she know that prevented her from being compassionate? Or, perhaps more importantly, what did she fear in herself that possibly she didn’t even recognize?
I knew I was overstepping my professional boundaries, but I simply could not be called in a room to watch a woman suffer. Saying nothing, I knelt down and gently held her shoulders. When I looked up, my boss was looking over a document. She had moved on and no longer appeared unsettled. The young mother kept her face downward, so much that I hardly noticed her reaching into her handbag. There, I saw more pink tissues and the top of a Ziploc bag.
“Would you please do something for me?” The young mother looked up at me with so much brokenness I thought for sure she would shatter if I let her go.
Without hesitation, I replied, “Yes.”
“I have been carrying this with me. I can’t seem to get it developed. Do you think you could do that for me?” She pulled out the Ziploc bag full of film. “I can get the pictures when I come back for my next appointment.”
I took the bag. I looked at my boss who didn’t look up but knew I was waiting for a response from her just the same: “Up to you. That would be on your own time,” is all she said.
Still not understanding, I took the bag and agreed. Before I left the room, my boss hollered, “Tiffany, the reason I called you in here is I need you to watch the children while I am in this meeting. No interruptions.”
An hour or so later the young mother was collecting her things and ushering her tired children out the door. “Do you have a second?” she asked me as I overheard my boss take a call.
I followed the family to the parking lot. “Thank you for taking the film. Those are the last pictures of my husband on those rolls … of their dad. We were on our way home from our summer vacation that we had saved for throughout the entire year. My husband was driving. I was asleep, so were the kids. I awakened when I heard my husband yell my name. I saw tires coming off the bed of a pickup truck in front of us on the highway. They were stacked up like a pile of rocks, and a few were beginning to slip. And then one did. He had nowhere to go with all the traffic and the speed of everyone around us. The bounce of the fallen tire was so fast and unpredictable, it struck the highway and flew straight through our minivan windshield. My husband was killed instantly.”
For a moment, I was so shocked I wondered if this is why my boss had become so indifferent … numb. For a second I didn’t want to get near to her … almost as if her grief were contagious. I wanted nothing to do with something so tragic or difficult to process. And yet, I remembered … I was called into the room. It may not have of been my boss’s intent for the calling, but I believe God’s calling prevailed.
Isaiah 6:8 says, “And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ Then I said, ‘Here am I! Send me!’”
I went to my usual processor to develop the film. The fella behind the counter handed me the envelopes and said, smiling, “I have always wanted to go to Disney World. Looks like ya’ll had a great time! We are still waiting on the last few pictures. Hold on ….”
I could feel the color drain from my face. I did not know where this family had vacationed, and I had not intended to look at the pictures. As he handed me the packages and the remaining photos to put in the last envelope, their faces at Magic Kingdom beamed back at me.
“You should blow this one up,” the cashier said as he handed me one more picture. The entire family of four, standing in front of their minivan wearing their Mickey Mouse ears, the vehicle windows painted with the words, “Disney World.”
The minivan. Their family.
Most recently I was driving down the highway and had to swerve around shreds of a semi-truck’s blown-out tire. Tread was strewn out like a wild maze; yet, there was no sign of the semi-truck. We were left to deal with the aftermath. Instantly, the young mother’s face from more than 20 years ago came to mind when she handed me the Ziploc bag of film.
Like those tires stacked too high on the bed of that pickup, we all have actions we choose that affect more than just ourselves. Some of these actions are brought on by pride, indifference, unwholesome thinking, a critical spirit and shame. Friend, sin never lives in isolation no matter how carefully we attempt to stack it: sin infects our thinking, our relationships, and can distort our position by lowering God and putting us first.
Ask yourself this week:
What am I doing that could possibly be leaving a painful aftermath for someone else? Am I willing to admit when I am wrong, to ask for forgiveness and to help clean up the aftermath? Am I answering God’s call above the tug of my selfishness, fears, and the call of the world?
Without hesitation, I replied, “Here am I! Send me, Lord! Send me!”
SGLY, dear readers.
(Smile, God Loves You.)
Tiffany Kaye Chartier is a Christian author and opinion columnist. You can find her newly released books, “H.E.R.O. Faith” and “Bad Disciples” on Amazon. To submit feedback on SGLY, please contact news@amtrib. com. Follow Chartier on Facebook: facebook. com/ tiffanychartier and Twitter : @tiffanychartier