Saturday, June 20, 2009

Too busy to hear

He wasn’t exactly the type of employee I expected to see at the neighborhood nursery – a tattooed giant in dark glasses and a big straw hat – but he seemed to know all about ice plant and aptenia and what drought-resistant groundcover would work best for my hillside landscaping project.

He also had great hearing.

While I pointed out which flats I wanted, a young boy peddled down the lattice-covered patio path and stopped next to us. The man greeted him cheerfully while continuing to wait on me, the paying customer.

“Look at the new bike seat my dad bought me,” the boy said proudly. He followed us to the cash register where the man took a moment to admire the gray and white camouflage-patterned seat and comment approvingly. Then he pointed out a bottle of anti-pet spray that might keep my dogs and cats out of the new plantings.

I hadn’t expected this giant of a man to be so gentle, thoughtful or adept at multi-tasking. He didn’t hurry me through the shopping process, nor did he brush off the child or speak to him in a harsh leave-me-alone-can’t-you-see-I’m-busy tone. The little boy was so at ease around him, I began to wonder if riding into the nursery was a daily ritual.

I like to think of myself as a caring, child-friendly person. After all, I’m a schoolteacher and – oh, yes – a Christian. However, my demeanor isn’t always what it should be and I know for a fact that I would have been more inclined to tell the little boy to come back later when I’m wasn’t busy with a customer.

I might not have heard his heart.

The disciples of Jesus, in their sincerest efforts to provide their leader with a break from the pressing crowds, scolded parents trying to get closer with their clinging toddlers and wailing infants.

“Go away,” they said. “Can’t you see he’s busy?”

Jesus also had a keen sense of hearing, not to mention impeccable timing. “Don’t prevent them from coming to me,” he said. “God’s kingdom is made up of people like these” (Matthew 19:14 The Message).

I need better hearing. I need to stop and listen to those who call out for attention, affirmation or affection. I need to be more like Jesus when others intrude on my hurried life – whether they are my own children or my spouse or a stranger who just needs a friendly greeting.

I need to be more like the tattooed man who wasn’t too busy to let a child know he was just as important as a paying customer.

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