Thursday, July 22, 2010

Responsibility and Restitution - Part 2: The Vacuum Cleaner and Starbucks

     So, it's taken me awhile to get back to my little blog. This post is a tad humbling, but here I go:
Along with a $5 Starbucks gift card (this is where Starbucks comes in), here's a sample of the note I enclosed in a small envelope for each recipient:
          Dear Vacuum Cleaner Saleswoman  and Manager at Sears(I used their real names, actually):
                     Please forgive me for my rude and demanding behavior the other day.  I allowed my frustration to turn in to pride and selfishness on my part. I am sorry. Here is a $5 Starbucks gift card to help you recover from having to deal with me the other day. Thank you for understanding. Sincerely, Laura Thomas

     This note, and the event that preceded it,  came the same week I was reading The Kalahari Typing School for Men. In that book I was so affected by the story of the man who seeks restitution for grievous wrongs he committed over 20 years ago. The restitution not only included an apology, but money directed in helpful ways as well. All parties were satisfied and a wrong had been righted to the best of  any person's ability. As I was reading this, my vacuum cleaner (here's where the vacuum cleaner comes into the title of this post)  had been out of commission and should have been fixed by Sears. There was much communication, missed calls, misinformation, and a growing layer of crumbs and yuck on all my carpeted floors. It really got to me. And then I was told, while offering no loaner vacuum cleaner and waiting for over two weeks, that they could not fix the vacuum cleaner. I won't go into how I responded after having been patient and understanding for those two weeks, but suffice it to say, the manager and saleswoman will enjoy a much-deserved latte or frappuccino on me.
     I decided to give them gift cards because as I was reading that story of the man taking responsibility for his wrong doing AND making restitution, I had to ask myself: do I make restitution as well as take responsibility when I've messed up with others? When I'm argumentative with Tim, or I yell at my kids, do I make an extra effort to not only ask for forgiveness, but do something extra special for them? Maybe a hug, a thoughtful note, their favorite cookies, or maybe a quick getaway with Mom for a little chat and an ice cream cone? 
     What brought on so many tears as I was reading that story in The Kalahari Typing School for Men was the idea that someone would go the extra mile, so to speak, to try and make their apology have some meaning to it. That man had to sacrifice some of his wealth to prove he meant, "I'm sorry." It hit a tender nerve in my heart because there are issues in my past that I would love for people to not only say "I'm sorry" but go the extra step with restitution. I, however, don't want money or any material things as restitution. It's hard even now for me to put into words how I struggle with this longing to completely  forgive people who have wronged me, and what restitution might look like. Perhaps restored relationships and a deeper care and consideration that goes both ways in the relationship. To some extent, I saw this occur in one relationship of mine this past year. I still marvel at how God put all that together. Another story for another time. Anyway, with other unresolved relationships and circumstances letting expectations go of how all this will work out for my good, and theirs, has been a trial for me.
      It takes me back to my faith in Jesus Christ. He took all my sin, and everyone else's, on himself so that the ultimate penalty for sin, Hell,  would be removed for those who accept his free offer of salvation. For the believer, we're told that God works all things together for the good of those who love Jesus and are called according to his purpose. I believe all these things are true of me: I love the Lord and I've been called to glorify him with my life: my "purpose." 
     What I struggle with is the patience and humility required to trust God, extend a blessing of prayer or practical kindness to those who have hurt me, and remain more aware of my need for forgiveness than my desire for others' to take responsibility and make restitution when they've wronged me. This takes a steady supply of focusing on the Author and Finisher of my faith, and being vigilant to keep my own heart in a place of dependence on God. Quite a challenge for this head-strong, proud girl.
     I also felt God tugging at the photo album of my heart and opening it to pictures of my past where I've struggled with injustices I observed and suffered. I felt God was showing me that this area of injustice is a sensitive trigger because there are many incidents that I need to bring to him to let him heal and help me put in the right perspective. These healing matters of the heart - this weighty business with God - often takes time and comes in little waves of prayers, conversations, journal-ling, etc. But just the awareness of why this area of justice, being wronged, pride, and a demanding spirit churns in my thinking and emotions is exceptionally helpful in lessening its power. I feel like I'm making progress in responding to customer service issues, vacuum cleaners, an imperfect husband, and flawed, though adorable, children in a way that pleases God and glorifies Him.
     I'm so glad that he's more committed to this process than I am. I can rest in His faithfulness.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Responsibility and Restitution - Part 1: The Girlfriend and the Radio

     So, I've really been enjoying the series of books by Alexander McCall Smith lately. The first book, made into an HBO series, is titled The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency. I have thoroughly enjoyed every one of these books. I am enlightened by the wisdom, intelligence, sensitivity and kindness of the lead character, Precious Ramotswe. Her assistant, the ever plucky and highly competent (97% on her exam from the Botswana Secretarial College!) Grace Makutsi is charming as well. Book number 4, The Kalahari Typing School for Men really touched a very emotional chord in my heart; a chord I was surprised existed to the extent that was revealed.
     In this book, there is a man who seeks the services of Mma. Ramotswe to find three individuals from his past. As a college student he was staying with a host family who had been very kind to him. As young and foolish individuals can be, certain events in his life having to do with a girlfriend and a radio led him to make atrocious decisions that would torment him for twenty years. That is, until Mma. Ramotswe tracks down the individuals and smartly helps this now successful and wealthy family man, Mr.Molefolo, confess his wrongdoings, take responsibility for his awful choices, and make appropriate restitution for the whole mess to two individuals. The restitution was costly, but Mma. Ramotswe brilliantly points out that, "I do not think that you can make up for these things cheaply. Do you?" In the end, the man pays out a lot of money, but his clear conscience was priceless. The story ends very satisfactorily and happily.
      Restitution satisfies a wrong doing in a practical, tangible way.It is the ultimate, "Put your money where your mouth is." It almost always follows an acknowledgment of wrongdoing - an apology. One dictionary definition is: a making good of or giving an equivalent for some injury. My response to this beautiful and poignant illustration of this rare-found principle was, well, a real bawl-fest. Yep - I cried really hard and had to examine why I was so moved by this story.
     Just days later, this issue would come to the forefront in all places but Sears. I would be given the opportunity to work through this whole idea of justice (yes, customer service issues again!), taking responsibility for wrongdoings, making restitution, and having a clear conscience. It's rather a humbling story, involving a vacuum cleaner and Starbucks, so I'll save it for my next post. (I have to work up the courage to actually put it on my blog. Ahh...confession is beneficial for the a few days maybe....) Stay posted.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Roller Coasters and Reflexology: Whoo-Hoo and Ahhh...

In a 2 day span of time, my body has been thrust through air in 360 degree circles, I've fallen over 100 feet in midair, twisted, glided, been rocketed upwards at speeds exceeding 100 mph, whizzed through the air at high speeds on my belly and had my head jerked and pulled in every direction imaginable. I've shrieked, "Oh God! Oh God!" numerous times in sheer terror and exhilaration. My neck, shoulders, fingers and toes have been squeezed, grabbed, pounded on, rubbed and pummeled. My feet, arms, and back have been massaged,  pressed on, pulled, and  popped till I groaned, "uugghhh" and "ahhh...".

     And I loved every minute of it.

     It started about a month ago when Camille (pictured in upper left corner) asked to go to Magic Mountain with her non-skiddish, daring, FUN friends for her 13 the birthday. So, a month prior to her birthday, we embarked on our anticipation-filled trip to Six Flags Tattoo Mountain. Oh, sorry, that would be Six Flags Magic Mountain. (I got distracted at the memory of all those bare shoulders and legs with lotsa' colorful, sprawling, curious-looking tattoos. Tattoos will most likely be a whole separate blog post). We arrived early, waited in line, and then attacked the lines of the best rides EVER. To be with these 11 and 12 year old girls, one who was a newbie to Magic Mountain, Haylie,  was simply and utterly delightful. Shannon, the experienced Magic Mountain goer, filled me in on all the details about the rides. These girls, so charming and sweet, ran through the park, gave each other victorious "we lived to tell about it"  high fives, plotted excitedly their next destination of sheer delight and terror, and said continually throughout the day, "That was soooo awesome! Thank you sooo much Mrs. Thomas/Mom for bringing us here today. You rock!" To share in their enthusiasm, clapping and cheering in sheer jubilation as I watched them fall 150 feet and then swing back and forth 50 feet in the air on "Dive Devil" (a little extra $, but so worth it), made all my aches and pains the next day totally worth it.
     And I was rewarded. My sweet, classy and generous stepsister, Wendy, scheduled a 1 hour reflexology massage for for the two of us the next day - her treat (thanks again Wendy!). That would describe the massaging, pinching and pummeling in the latter part of the first paragraph. It was so wonderful and relaxing. I got to keep all my clothes on, too! Afterward, we traipsed through Old Town to a cute little Parisian cafe and had a sumptuous lunch and wonderful conversation.We'll have to make it a regular outing for sure!
     Magic Mountain, however, well....let's'll be 4 more years till Leanne turns thirteen so I have some time to recover. Whew! I'll need it. And unfortunately, I didn't get any pictures of us at Magic Mountain. I was worried about losing my camera or cell phone, and photos they take of you there were a small fortune. So, perhaps I'll update this blog post later with a picture of the three giggly, spirited tweenagers.