Every day ask yourself the question, "Do I want to experience Peace of Mind or do I want to experience Conflict?" ~Gerald Jampolsky Psychiatrist
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I got so many requests to see the 2TheHeart stepping stone that Melodie Tilander designed that I posted a photo of it on the page with her story! You can see the stepping stone and a photo of Melodie, me and Debbie Wells here: www.2theheart.com/july26_04 Enjoy today's story and quote above!
"Served With a Smile"
by Marion Bond West
My husband, Gene, held the door for me, acting as if we hadn't had a big blowup while driving to Bloomington, Ind., the night before. I marched past him into the breakfast area of our motel without saying a word.
"Good morning!" The hostess greeted us right away, directing us toward a buffet laden with toast, pastries, cereal and fruit. "Isn't it a beautiful day? May I pour you some juice?" Her beaming smile made me want to run back to our room.
"Orange juice would be fine for us, thank you," Gene said gratefully. Turning to me, he added, "Sure is a great day, isn't it, Honey?" I knew what he meant: Be nice to this lady. She's really trying.
I glared at him, steel in my eyes, and silently took my juice. As Gene brought his tray to a table near the window, I sensed the hostess trying to catch my eye. Determinedly I looked down at the selection of bagels. Even so, she asked me, "How are you today, dear?"
I couldn't ignore her, but no way would I give her some phony upbeat answer. So I said, "Do you know what the temperature is outside?"
"Hmm . . . I don't," she replied. "But look how the sun's bringing out the color in all the leaves. It's going to be another glorious autumn day. My name's LaVon. If you need anything else, just let me know."
Nodding, I grabbed my bagel and coffee and sat down with Gene. "See those plaques? They're all awards that sweet lady has won," he marveled. "Isn't she something?"
I didn't answer, yet I couldn't help glancing at LaVon. With her neat black-and-white outfit and tireless smile, she looked like a goodwill ambassador for the motel, though the lines etched on her face told me her life hadn't been easy. How did she do it? She had to be my age, but she zipped around with the energy of my granddaughter, chatting with all the guests. Every one of them seemed to brighten, basking in her attention.
Then Gene murmured, "I have to be out at the conference center all day, but . . . " Instantly the hurt and anger from the fight we'd had swept over me again. On the way to the motel the previous night I'd carelessly crammed our road map into the glove compartment. Gene, meticulous as always, had nearly veered off the road, bellowing at me to refold it properly.
Deep down I knew I'd provoked him intentionally. He had been so absorbed with his upcoming meeting he hadn't noticed the anxiety overwhelming me. Gene had to know what was really bothering me! After all, we'd talked about it countless times: My father and my first husband had both died young, and every so often, though it wasn't rational, I'd feel like I was being abandoned again and I'd be gripped with terror. Usually it was triggered by something trivial, like having to stay behind while Gene went to a meeting. But once that old fear got stirred up, it left me as anxious as I'd been when I was a child being told my daddy was never coming back.
Normally Gene was good at picking up on my moods. I thought he understood! I lamented. Gene rose and said, "Honey, I need to get going." Reluctantly I followed him outside.
LaVon called after us, "Bye now. Enjoy your day!"
Before he drove off, Gene ventured tentatively, "See you later?" I nodded, unable to speak. As I watched the car disappear in the distance, I felt utterly alone, chilled by more than the crisp fall air.
I trudged to our room and sank down at the desk. Lord, I wondered, what am I going to do with myself all day? I stared at the desktop, stark and empty as the hours without Gene threatened to be.
Then, ever so faintly, a thought threaded through my anxiety. Go back and talk to that nice lady LaVon. I knew well enough to recognize when God wanted me to do something. Still, I hesitated. Striking up a conversation with a stranger was the last thing I wanted to do. Besides, what would I say?
You can start by telling her you're sorry for being so rude.
Sighing, I dragged myself back to the breakfast area. I spotted LaVon at the door, about to leave. It was now or never.
I went up to her. "Are you going?" I asked, feeling foolish.
"I was, but I can let you back into the dining room."
"No, that's okay. I just need to"?I struggled with the words?"talk with you a moment. If you don't mind."
She smiled. "Of course not. Why don't we take a seat over there in the lobby?" We settled down on a sofa, and I looked her in the eye.
"My husband and I had a spat over a road map, and I took it out on you this morning, when you were being so nice too. I'm sorry."
Her gaze was steady, making me feel comfortable enough to ask what I'd been wondering since breakfast. "Your job can't be easy. How do you manage to stay so happy?"
She leaned toward me as though she were about to share the greatest secret in the world. "I love people," she said. "Making their mornings a little smoother, seeing them smile." That must be the reason you got this job."
"Actually, this turned up when everything in my life seemed to be going wrong," LaVon said. "My husband had died, and my daughter was terribly ill. I had to find a job that would leave me time to take care of her and my grandkids."
All at once my troubles seemed pretty insignificant.
"Looking back," she went on, "I think the Lord put me here. He knew helping other people would help me feel better."
That made sense. A few minutes chatting with her was already doing the same for me, helping me take a much-needed step outside myself.
Then LaVon asked gently, "What's really wrong, dear?"
I couldn't hold back. I told her everything about my deep-seated separation anxiety. "Sometimes, like when Gene drove off this morning, I start feeling terrified that I'll be left again, all alone."
LaVon looked at me searchingly. Finally I admitted, "I guess I should know by now, we're never truly alone."
She patted my knee and said, "Gene's coming back, you know."
What a relief to hear that spoken aloud. It felt almost as freeing as getting my fear out in the open. "Oh, LaVon, thank you!" This time my smile was even brighter than hers.
I said good-bye and strolled across the parking lot to our room, breathing in the refreshing autumn air. I knew just how I would spend the next several hours: reading, going for a walk, admiring the leaves and, of course, planning a good honest talk with Gene. As LaVon had pointed out, it was another of the Lord's glorious days. Why not make the most of it?
by Marion Bond West copyright 1999
Marion lives in Watkinsville, Georgia and writes for 2TheHeart's affiliate, Guideposts Magazine. You can email her in care of 2TheHeart.
The Letter Box:
Once again, I loved your Grandma story. Your grandmother should have a whole book about her life and I hope some day you write it. I am very curious to see the stepping stone you made for Susan! God bless you, Michael T.
Melodie Tilander's story was a treasure. Her grandmother was a very wise lady and I have enjoyed her other stories as well. It's nice to see the wisdom handed down to both Melodie and her brother! God bless, Geena
Dear Ms. Tliander,
I just finished reading "A Grandson's Footstool" and went to the stories page on 2TheHeart and also read "An Absent Grandmother's Prayers", which had me in tears. Thank you for sharing your gift of writing and the heritage of your family.
Sincerely, Joanna Tyne, London