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.

1 comment:

Aaron Schiffer said...

Does offering a gift really go the extra mile? I don't feel that when we sin against God that tithing a little extra changes his opinion of us. Don't get me wrong, I frequently think/hope that "paying restitution" means giving financially to a cause. I feel, though, that an earnest apology should suffice. If there's still tension in a relationship after said apology, I believe it would resemble an oil fire, it which case the tension should dissolve on it's own in it's own time.