I’ll never forget answering the phone that day.
I was filling in for the secretary at our church office while she was away on vacation. Most calls I received were simple inquiries, easy to answer. But this call was different.
“Who made that stupid bulletin?” grouched the lady on the other end. “It was dumb, hard to read, nobody liked it!
“I did,” I gulped in response. She was taken back a bit.
Oh,” she replied. “Well, I don’t know why anyone would do that. It was totally new. Nobody liked it. It was really dumb.
Don’t know why someone would do something so stupid!”
By this time I was almost glad I had answered the phone. Really? I thought. All this over a new bulletin design?
Conveniently, the senior pastor was available, and I asked if she’d like to speak to him about it. He had encouraged me to work on an updated design, which had been very well received by many church members earlier that week.
The angry lady gave him no mercy. She vehemently proclaimed how much she disliked it. When he asked what exactly it was she didn’t like, she couldn’t pinpoint anything in particular . . . just that it was dumb. He generously talked to her, suggesting that she take a detailed look and bring back any specifics we could improve for the following week. She never found anything, and we never heard about it again. However, my feelings toward this woman lingered. How could she call and chew me out like that? Why would she be so harsh?
A week or two later, my husband and I were looking for a place to sit at the potluck lunch after church. As I scanned the room looking for seats, I saw the angry lady. Sure enough, she had two seats available at her table. I’ll admit my feelings were not all positive, but I glanced at my husband, he nodded, and we headed to her table. We sat down, made friendly conversation, asked about her life and family, and surprisingly enjoyed our meal.
In the following weeks I decided to continue being friendly toward her, even though she had been anything but friendly to me. When I saw her, I’d greet her with a hug and smile and try to make conversation.
Several weeks later, I had the opportunity to preach at our church. After the service I made my way to the back of the church to greet everyone. As people shook my hand, the angry lady approached me—this time with tears in her eyes.
“I just want to apologize for what I’ve done. I’m so sorry for how I treated you, and I need to go find the pastor before I leave so I can apologize to him too.”
At that moment I was so glad I hadn’t retaliated, snubbed, ignored, or avoided her. I might have had every right to, but her change of heart proved what kindness, prayer, and compassion can do.
Later I learned that the new bulletin design was hardly the reason behind her lashing out. It was just something to hide behind as she reacted to feeling hurt by another church member. The saying is true: “Hurt people—hurt people.”
It may not be easy, it may be undeserved, but it’s my prayer that God will help me and each of us to love, to extend kindness, to show understanding, and to pray for those who need it most.
Who knows? It may make all the difference!