I did something yesterday that I have never done in my entire life: I went shopping on Boxing Day. The rest of the world probably doesn't have this tradition but in most of North America the stores offer deep discounts on their products the day after Christmas. In the province of Quebec the stores are not permitted to open until 1 pm but the line ups start forming hours before that. Thankfully it was not a terribly cold day but after a couple of hours in minus degree weather anything feels cold.
So we stood in line to get into the store. Then we stood in line in the store for certain products. Then in another line for another group of products. Then there was the huge line to actually purchase the products. And after that? Another line to get into another store. I felt like I was at Disney World but as my wife and I stood in those various lines I enjoyed watching the character of people come to the surface by way of their actions.
There were the polite and patient people who quietly stood in line chatting with people they had only now met. Then there were the people who felt they were above the rules and shouldn't have to wait in line, cutting in despite the protests of the people around them. There were those protesting people who wanted justice for the inappropriate actions of people who were not following the rules. There were people who should not ever get involved in events like this, who's anger simmered just below the surface, ready to explode at the least provocation. Then there were the poor store workers who steeled their heart in preparation for the worse of human behaviour.
Some of these workers dealt with various problems with humour, always laughing, smiling and making the customer feel glad to be dealing with them even if they could not help them. Others dealt with it in almost an emotionless state, not caring, just doing their job. Then other workers should have just stayed at home. They were the grumpy ones, the ones that convinced you never to shop at that store again. They are the ones who are probably going through a divorce or whose mother is in hospital dying or who just had a car accident that morning. Their head just isn't there but none of the customers knows or understands that. Some wouldn't care even if they did know.
I enjoyed myself yesterday because I went with the Spirit of Christ. I was determined that the character of Jesus was going to be seen in me in the midst of the chaos. I kept a smile on my face and I meant it; I was glad to be there. I spoke politely and showed courtesy to fellow customers and store clerks. I especially spoke kindly to those workers who seemed to be having a really bad day. You know what? I got a lot of smiles and kind gestures back.
What really amazed me was that I had gone into the day determined to be a blessing and I came home blessed. My determination to allow the Spirit to reveal the character of Christ in me turned the day into a great experience. I felt happy, joyful, full of peace and very much content as I walked through my front door. Because I was determined in this way I also saw a lot of good things in people while dismissing the bad. My heart was warmed as I saw kind gestures, heard polite words and saw the evidence of forgiving hearts. The character of Christ really does not keep record of wrongs and sees the best in people.
Where we choose to fix our eyes, mind and heart every day and in every situation really does have an impact on how we see and react to things. As followers of Jesus we should make it our desire and ambition to allow the Spirit to reveal the character of Jesus in us. The first and most important step is remembering that, despite the behaviour of people, God loves every last one of them, and so should we.