A Bucket of Humility
It had just been one of those days. I had one nerve left and someone stepped on it. As the executive assistant to the commanding officer of a large naval command, I was the first contact for visitors and, since I was heavily involved behind the scenes with the management staff, employees often came to me with questions.
I thrived in the busy office environment and enjoyed the interaction…most of the time. On this particular morning, a series of consecutive work crises left me frustrated, irritated and unusually intolerant. My capacity for dealing with stupid had peaked. I was done.
My executive officer must have felt the same. Sighing, she came out of her office and leaned on the counter above my desk. “What did you bring for lunch?”
I shrugged. “Just leftovers.”
She glanced at the clock. “Chicken sounds good. I’ll ask the Skipper if she wants lunch, too. If you fly, I’ll buy!”
I nodded and grabbed my purse.
I drove off the base, navigated the lunchtime traffic and turned into the parking lot of the small Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant. Apparently, dozens of others had a hankering for the Colonel’s extra-crispy poultry. There was only one parking spot left, and it was beside a van that had parked over the line, which did nothing for my mood. I grumbled as I squeezed my car into the tight parking space.
I carefully got of my car, smoothed my dress, and hurried to the door. I opened the door and took a step back as a dozen men, in military flight suits and leather flight jackets, exited. Not one of them acknowledged my presence, or the fact that I was holding the door for them. I grumbled, thinking these must be new flight students and, while they may be officers, they needed to be schooled in being gentlemen.
As I stood in line to order, I stewed in my dissatisfaction. What happened to good old-fashioned manners? And just who were these flight students trying to impress wearing leather flight jackets — in the middle of July? And it’s a good thing the XO wasn’t with me, because no matter how pretty their hair was, she would have called them out on their failure to maintain a regulation haircut.
It was at that precise moment that an unfortunate soul crossed my path. He was scruffy, loud and had the nerve to step in my personal space bubble. He leaned close and, as he pointed in the direction of the flight-suit clad men who were now getting in the van, he asked with wide eyes, “Do you think they are movie stars?”
I didn’t even try to be polite. I rolled my eyes and replied sharply, “You do know that the Navy base just down the street trains flight students, right? And that those students patronize local restaurants?”
I gave the man a quick once-over thinking he had watched Top Gun one-too-many times. I waited impatiently for my order, anxious to get out of the crowded lobby.
When I got back to the office, as we sat around the lunch table, I shared my KFC encounter. I disregarded a twinge of guilt at how rude I had been and, instead, told the details with dramatic flourish. While I had a captive audience, I elaborated, too, on my misfortunes about how I always seemed to attract the nerds of the world, and yet was invisible when it came to the gorgeous Hollywood-type men. I was quite pleased by their response to my comical story-telling ability; I basked in their affirming laughter. Suddenly, my day seemed a bit brighter.
Later that evening, I turned on the television just in time to see the local news spotlight the cast of a new TV series that was filming on location at the military base. The camera panned the location set and there they were…the flyboys from KFC!
Instantly, the feel-good pride-bubble I had been floating on burst and I was deflated by the Holy Spirit’s conviction. I turned off the TV, but the scenes of the day played vividly in my mind.
I had been the common denominator in every situation and every encounter. How had I gotten to the point that I had allowed myself to feel superior? To feel justifiably annoyed at what I thought were dumb questions by dumb people? To be so very rude to a man I assumed had a star-struck imagination? And how could I have blatantly disregarded the twinge of guilt when I was story-telling…all for the sake of a laugh?
In my quest to be Christlike, I had failed miserably.
I thought about how I could have handled things so much differently in the restaurant lobby. I could have spoken kindly to the men in flight suits. I should have been kind to the man in line.
And I certainly should have ordered a bucket of humility to-go.
When pride comes, disgrace follows, but with humility comes wisdom. ~ Proverbs 11:2