Every now and then, I have the privilege of meeting someone who reads this column. That happened recently while I was waiting at Southern Tire. A man sat next to me and said, “I appreciate your columns in the Times-News.” I thanked him, asked his name, and we chatted for the next 15 minutes or so. You know how men are.
Our conversation started with what we do for a living. But it didn’t stay there. My new friend Patrick then started telling me about something that had happened to him a few weeks earlier. I told him the story was too good to keep to ourselves, and promised him I would share it with the other seven people who read this column. So, here it is.
Patrick was out with two of his kids one day, making good on a promise. He had told them that if they worked hard at the project they had been given, he would treat them to a milkshake. As they drove down Huffman Mill Road toward Cook Out, Patrick noticed a truck pulling a trailer in the center turn lane. It was near the entrance to Cook Out, but not in the place one would normally be if he were planning on turning. “I had to make a decision at that point,” Patrick said to me. “I honestly did not think the man was turning into the same place I was, so I pulled in front of him, waited for traffic to clear, and then entered the drive-through lane at the restaurant. I glanced into my rearview mirror and saw the man in the truck pull in right behind me. Uh-oh, I thought.”
As you may have guessed, the man in the truck did not stay in the truck. He threw it into park, opened the door, and angrily stomped forward to have it out with Patrick.
“You so hungry that you had to cut me off?” the man asked after Patrick had rolled his window halfway down.
Now at this point, Patrick had a choice to make, though he didn’t tell me that as he shared the story. He could have responded any number of ways to the man’s question. Here is a sample of what comes to mind:
“What is your problem?!” (matching him anger for anger)
“You twalkin’ to me?” (with a Jersey accent, trying to throw him off with humor)
“Eh … what’s up, Doc?” (distracting with silliness, especially if he had a carrot in the car)
“(Silence)”…followed by sign language.
Thankfully, Patrick did the mature thing. He said three golden words: “I am sorry.” Then, “I didn’t know you were turning into this place.”
The angry man was not appeased. “Oh, yes you did! You knew I was turning here.” Patrick had tried to apologize. That failing, he attempted restitution. He said, “Tell you what. You back up your truck, and then I will back up and let you go in front of me in line.” The man refused the gesture and stormed back to his truck, muttering and fuming. After Patrick placed his order, he said he felt the Lord prompting him to pay for the man’s meal behind him. So, when he got to the pickup window, that’s exactly what he did. “I wish I could have seen the man’s expression when he was told his order had been paid for,” Patrick said. I would love to see that, too. Patrick did his part, though, obeying the Word that says, “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.”
J. Mark Fox is the author of “A Faithful Man,” his latest book, and the pastor of Antioch Community Church on Power Line Road in Elon. You can find all of Mark’s books on Amazon or other online sellers. Email Mark at firstname.lastname@example.org