I was wandering the aisles of a new flooring store when a clerk asked, “Can I help you find something?”
“Actually, yes. Where is the restroom?”
The clerk pointed toward the corner of the store behind me. As he did, our eyes met and I recognized him. More than twenty years had passed. His face was the same, only older. Maybe it was wiser too. His hair, brown in bygone days, had a whisper of grey. But there was no mistake, it was Randy.
In a brain blink I asked myself, “Should I tell him who I am? Should I take a chance that he remembers me? No, what’s the point? Even if he remembers me, the conversation would be short and dull.”
I turned and walked to the restroom. Looking back over my shoulder, I saw Randy walking. The hiccup was still in his step. He walked as if one leg was slightly shorter than the other, or maybe he had a hip problem. Whatever it was (I had never asked him) he still had it.
As I left the restroom I looked for him. Two things were on my mind. First, I wanted to get a look at his name tag. I didn’t doubt who he was, but something in me wanted confirmation. I quickly thought up a question to ask. “Does your store sell vinyl flooring, or only tile and wood?”
“Only tile and wood,” he answered.
There was his name in bold letters. RANDY – his name tag was clearly pinned on his work apron.
My mind hummed, “Should I say something? Should I talk about the days when we worked together and see if he remembers me?”
Another thought crowded my mind. Randy and I had worked in the same grocery store more than twenty years ago. He had been my superior. He had yelled at me.
That’s what I remember about Randy. It’s a sad commentary – to be remembered for an angry outbursts. I’m certain Randy is a fine man, a hard worker, and loved by many people. But all I remember about working with him, and under his supervision, is the time he yelled at me.
Did I deserve to be yelled at? To be cursed at? Many times, yes. The time I recall wasn’t one of them. I distinctly remember that his outrage was unwarranted. He yelled and cussed and was unreasonable.
Maybe he was having a bad day. Maybe he didn’t mean to be mean. Maybe. The sad thing is – I don’t remember one nice conversation I had with Randy (although there must have been many). I was never chummy with my coworkers at the grocery store. I didn’t go out with them after work or invite them over for barbecue. Yet, I have fond feelings for many of them. Not for Randy. There is a blank in my mind regarding our working relationship. A blank, all except that one angry outburst.
As I left the store I was covered by a sadness, deep and pressing, like my soul was under water. Seeing Randy made me think about the importance of controlling my tongue. I don’t want my family, my neighbors, or my friends, to see me years from now and only remember the times I lost control. What impression will I leave in the minds of others twenty years from now? Will it be positive or negative? And more important, how can I best give glory to God through the use of my tongue?
If others are to remember me for kind words, for encouraging words, and not for angry outburst, I need to draw near to Christ. I need to be filled with the Spirit. I need all the help I can get. Lord, help me to control my tongue. And Lord, thank you for being gracious when I fail.