Working in my particular branch of the Archdiocese means I typically handle calls from cranky people.
This past week I had felt incredibly bogged down with an overload of work and a litany of agitated callers. I would love to say I responded charitably and patiently with each person, but I'd be lying.
God forgive me, but Friday morning found me in an awfully foul mood. My very first caller of the day (before I'd even sat down at my desk!) was an angry person demanding to know why we were such evil, evil people. Le sigh.
I handled the call as politely as possible, but I could feel my entire mindset shift from "Good morning, world!" to "Gah, let me survive today without stabbing anyone with my letter opener."
As the day dragged on with more of the same, I actually looked up at the ceiling and said outloud, "Alright, God, what did I do? Not really sure where You're going with all of this, but You need to do something about these folks [calling in]."
No sooner did I mouth that frustration than did the Archbishop's secretary come down and request my boss. Since he was in a meeting, I asked if I could help with anything.
Turns out there was a very unhappy couple downstairs making a scene and demanding an audience with the Archbishop. Security was refusing to let them up and his secretary had no idea what else to do with them. I contemplated passing the baton to one of three directors in my office, but honestly, I knew they were all super busy and just didn't have the time to spend soothing the ire out of anyone. So, I bit the bullet and followed the Archbishop's secretary to the security desk.
It wasn't pretty when I went downstairs. They weren't just angry... they were livid. Security didn't want to let them into the building, but shoving them into the street wasn't going to help. Since our office was relatively quiet that afternoon, I agreed to have them voice their complaints upstairs and away from the gawkers who had gathered to see the spat.
The Archbishop's secretary gratefully bid us farewell as I led the couple upstairs and into our conference room. I braced myself for the onslaught of ire that had obviously welled up inside of them. I'd endured an entire week of super-charged anger. I viewed them as my last epic hurdle until my weekend which would be free from folks like this. So on the surface I treated them with careful respect and a soothing, caring manner. On the inside, though, I was recoiling from the wave of vitriol I had accepted from the Archbishop's secretary.
Oh, how I cringe at my callous heart!
This couple is middle-aged and closing in fast on retirement. The wife was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011 and her husband had been out of work due to a severe injury. They've been struggling for several years due to the mounting medical bills and lack of work. They had looked for help everywhere and found nothing. The husband pulled stacks of business cards and letters from his bag to show me regarding his efforts in securing a livelihood and subsequent help for he and his wife. The desperation and frustration were evident.
What was more evident, however, was their love and faith.
As both of them spoke over one another in their attempt to tell me why they were so frustrated and upset, I noticed how very caring they were of one another. Their body language was endearing. She kept grasping his arm and he kept patting her hand. She would sometimes hug him close when she fumbled for words and he would quickly pick up for her and explain the feelings for which she had no words.
It was a beautiful thing to witness.
And on top of that, this struggling couple did not express anger at me or at the Archdiocese. They weren't cursing God for allowing them to be in the situation they found themselves. In fact, the wife said "My breast cancer is God's will and I accept that. If He wishes to heal me, He'll heal me. If not, then I shall go with Him and that is that."
Instead, their frustration came from a simple miscommunication that served to bring them to our very doorstep. They acknowledged that had it not been for our mailing, they wouldn't have come to us and learned that we do, in fact, offer the very services they need to get back on their feet again. God used their anger and frustration as the bait to lead them into the trap of His Love. Doesn't that sound silly? But it's true. God knows what motivates us, and sometimes it's as basic as our human frustration.
Anyway, this couple vented all of their issues to me... personal, private matters that they just longed to share with another human person. They'd been kicked around so many systems, taken advantage of by so many groups that are supposed to help... they just didn't know where else to turn. So, God led them to the Archdiocesan center... specifically to me.
And I think I got more from their visit more than they did.
Seeing how much they loved each other... how willing they were to sacrifice for the other's benefit... it was almost too much for me!
In order to survive on the $16 welfare food stipend they receive, they will eat every other day. So the wife will eat one day, the husband will eat the next, etc, etc, etc. They acknowledged this as if it were perfectly normal - that anyone would do this if faced with a similar situation. The husband kept saying, "But she is my wife. Of course I will do this."
I must've had the most stupified look on my face. It was all I could do to keep from crying. How shameful I must be in the Eyes of the Lord. I'm going about my day frustrated with the very people I work to serve. To put me in my place... to show me how arrogant and thoughtless I'd become, He brought two of these very people to look me in the eye and express to me the depth of their pain.
It was like a challenge from God.
Can you dare to open your mouth against these children of Mine? To whine, complain and roll your eyes when tasked with answering their call? I put you into this position specifically so you could help my people, and what do I get from you in return? Scorn? Disdain? Arrogance? You act shameful and thus shame that which I have done for you!
Ugh - my heart must have broken into a thousand pieces. I felt so inadequate... so unworthy... so terrible. God had answered my prayer, but He had answered in a way that far exceeded what my original intention had anticipated. Forgive me my folly, Lord. Oh, forgive me my folly...
My coworkers, by this time, were growing agitated that this couple had spent so much of my time in the conference room. After all, phones needed to be answered, envelopes stuffed, and paperwork filed. The longer I was away from my desk, the less work was getting done. Thus, I guided the conversation to a close as quickly as possible with the promise of engaging all the proper channels to help them get situated.
After I escorted them out of the building, security apologized up and down for handing over what they assumed (what I had assumed!) were a couple of nut jobs. I assured them that everything was fine and the couple was actually a great gift to me. I tried to explain that to my coworkers, too. They, though, had about a thousand jokes at the ready aimed at me and my bleeding heart for allowing them to torment my patience for the better part of an hour.
I don't care, though. I recognized what that couple was. They were my stark reprimand as well as my chance for mercy. God made it so that I'd have the proper avenues at the ready to answer their needs. So not only was I reminded of the blessing it was to serve these people, God granted me the satisfaction of actually being able to do it.
It was a much needed reminder that I'm shamed to say I needed. So I hope you guys take heart in this as well. Sometimes in life there are going to be lots of angry people who want to vent at you. The best you can do is accept that God placed you there to return their anger and frustration with love and kindness as best you can, because even these folks (maybe even especially these folks) are in need of God's mercy. Be that mercy for them.
***And please, please, please keep this couple in your prayers. They deserve to be lifted to the Lord in a very special way given their overwhelming needs. Truly these folks need as many prayers as possible. Thanks!***
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