Some of the most rewarding times of my life come from serving others in some form or another, without expecting anything in return. In the Bible, it is referred to as “loving” others. But, from time to time, I can get a little selfish and less than “loving”. It is during these times of selfishness that I seem to learn some of the most valuable lessons, but also sometimes suffer the greatest humiliations. When I begin to feel a little sorry for myself, I whine to God or to Ms. Toni. Neither allow me to get away with what I call being my “inner three year old” and both encourage me to be more giving and charitable. When I do that, I usually see my “problem” dissipate quickly. When I don’t, I usually learn the lesson the hard way.
Last week I learned a lesson about complaining without cause when I went to a meeting with Mississippi Chapter of Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA) in Philidelphia, Mississippi. I was in a whiney mood at the end of what I thought was a long day. I was tired and looked forward to lying down and relaxing in my room once the day was done. When that didn’t go exactly as I thought it should have gone, I developed an attitude and complained to Ms. Toni as always. Here is how it went.
I got into bed around 9:00 pm, hoping to watch some of the later Olympic events. I had already been through my nightly routine, coffee prepared, vitamins taken, clothes arranged, shower completed, nutty bar and milk strategically placed so they could easily be found in the dark. You know, the normal stuff people do. I called my wife, Ms. Toni, to say goodnight as I always do. As we wrapped up the call I took my Ambien and fluffed my five pillows to just the right comfort level and settled back in the dark as the sprinters were lining up for a race.
I suppose I watched for something like “half a lap”, or a minute or so, when the satellite signal went out. I scrambled in the dark to find the remote, afraid I had rolled over onto it and somehow changed the channel. As I became increasingly frustrated (remember the three year old?) I realized that there was no getting the TV to come back on. I thought to myself, “Now I am going to have to lay here in the dark and look at Facey Book, or Itsy Bitsey, or Snappy Chatty or something until I go to sleep. How unfair is that?” Oh yeah, my inner three year old is a doozy when he is being “offended” by not getting his way.
As I reached for my phone I saw a flash in the window that was followed almost immediately by a loud clap of thunder. Since I was already leaning over to get my phone I was just a little too off balance. Being startled by the noise caused me to jump and that was just enough to put me on the floor beside the bed. “I meant to do that!” I said out loud as if Ms. Toni was in the room. “Oh yeah, I am by myself,” I thought. Nonetheless, I was somewhat embarrassed, but was able to find my phone and sit back down on the bed to check the weather radar. Sure enough, there was a large storm upon us and it was about to get pretty bad based on what I could see of the purple and red colors on the radar. I have been through a few storms and thought it would be a good idea to find the stairwell just in case the power went out and I had to get downstairs. “No way I am getting stuck in an elevator!” I thought.
I quickly grabbed my pajamas and got dressed, slipped on my fuzzy slippers, (Yes they are fuzzy and No, I didn’t buy them for myself, (don’t judge me) , grabbed my wallet and my phone and headed out the door. I was happy to see that the stairwell was only two or three doors down from my room and headed over to do the recon for my escape should the need arise.
I gingerly walked through the stairwell door and peered over the rails to see how far down I may have to walk to the ground floor. As I leaned over the rail I heard the familiar sound of a door closing and my heart fell to the very bottom floor as the sound echoed through the empty halls. I closed my eyes and sighed. “Okay Ken, there is no need to let your blood pressure go up. I am sure that the door is not locked and you will be okay. No need to panic man. Just slowly turn around and you will see that the door will let you right back in the way you came out.” As I took the advice of the voice in the back of my mind, I turned and gazed upon the sign that proved him a complete liar. “No re-entry.”
“Well this is just great!” I muttered in a low tone. Trying not to overthink things I decided to head down the stairs. My fuzzy slippers flipped and flopped and echoed like the Budweiser Clydesdales on a hollow boardwalk. I prayed no one else could hear them. That would just be too humiliating.
I arrived at the landing of the next floor and looked at the door. “No Re-entry.” Flippity flop, flippity flop, to the next floor. “No re-entry.” Flippity flop, almost cussing, flippity flop, to the next floor. “No Re-entry”. Flippity flop, stagger, grab the rail for balance, cuss a little and promise to pray for forgiveness later, flippity flop, to what they say is the first floor. “No Re-entry”. By this time I am winded and ticked off at myself. I can hear the sound of the storm outside. One more floor and I should be on the ground level, so off I trudged. Flippity flop, flippety flop, huff and puff, flippity flop, then finally, the “EXIT” sign!
I was a little proud that I had made it to the very bottom of the stairwell but the pride quickly faded away as I realized I was likely about to set off an alarm in a casino when I opened the door. There was no doubt in my mind that doing that would not end well for me. I could hear the wind and thunder outside and imagined myself bursting through the door and running around the outside of the massive building to get back to the main entrance. “That is going to be a mess and I will not only be soaked but could be struck by lightning,” I thought. “Better to just sit here for a few minutes until the storm passes and maybe I can make it without getting too wet or attracting too much attention. I will just check the radar, then call the casino to tell them the alarm is about to go off when I open the door. They will understand and maybe even give me a ride back around the building. Yeah, that’s a great plan!”
I took out my phone and looked at the signal. Any guesses? Yep, nothing. Nadda, not even a bar. They should put a signal indicator on the phone for times when you have less than a hint of a signal. Maybe something like “Center of the earth” or “Signal? Whatsa a signal?” would be helpful. I couldn’t even get onto Google to get the hotel phone number. I sat down on the bottom step and stared at my only friend in the world, a worn out straw broom standing in the corner seemingly laughing at me like that old guy in the dungeon that has been chained there for twenty years. “You been here long sonny?” as he smiles through his only tooth. “Foods not too good here, but the critters keep me company.”
I sat there for a few minutes trying to figure out what I should do next. I could hear voices on the other side of the door in the distance. No doubt, there were hotel employees coming in to work and rushing to get out of the rain. I could picture them in my mind’s eye, scrambling to get into the building. The sound of the rain and the wind got worse and better intermittently as I sat on the steps and contemplated my next move.
Ten or fifteen minutes went by when the thought hit me, “Oh no! I took my Ambien before I left my room! I am going to fall asleep sitting here and they will find me here in the morning in my fuzzy slippers and pajamas!” If that wasn’t the case, the reality was that I was about to get real goofy real fast and I had to make a move, right now. I jumped up and reached for the door.
I took a deep breath and prepared myself. “Okay Ken. We are gonna do this. We are going to open the door and run, trying to stay out of the deep water. We are going to get wet for sure, but maybe we won’t get struck and maybe security won’t see us. Ready, set, GO!”
I slammed my weight on the crash bar of the door expecting the alarm to sound as I burst through into the storm, but to my surprise, no alarm sounded. I found it curious that as I cleared the door, I felt no rain. I looked up and was shocked to find myself standing safely in the kitchen of the casino! “Oh this is just perfect!” I complained to myself internally. “I am about to be escorted to the local Choctaw Indian jail or worse, end up on the evening news as the Ambien nut that got loose in the casino kitchen at The Golden Moon.”
The sounds I had heard were a combination of the air conditioning system and the water being sprayed by a lone dishwasher on the other side of the large room. I stood there for a second trying to look like I belonged there but was quickly discovered/busted by a kind lady walking back to get some dishes. She looked at me and I looked at her with my arms raised. “I have come down the stairs and can’t get back in” I sheepishly offered. She smiled and motioned over the noise for me to follow her.
She was so kind not to call security. But, I could not help but to feel that I was being perp-walked to a degree. As we turned the corner my heart sank and a knot rose in my throat.
Do you remember that time you had a dream that you were in public and realized that you were in your underwear? Remember how helpless you felt? Remember the horror of having those people in your dream stare at you as if you were a certified nut case? No matter how hard you try in that dream, you can’t avoid the stares and the dream seems to never end. Take a second, and think about that.
The knot in my throat choked off any possible “thank you” that I might have been able to offer the kind lady as she stepped to one side and waved me into the very back of the buffet area. When I turned the corner and realized that the buffet was full of people I honestly thought it would have been better for me to have been struck by lightning. “This is NOT happening!” I thought.
I now had to fippity flop flippity flop my happy little butt through all the people that had filled the room to eat, past the line at the register, and past the little ole’ladies at the slot machines in my pajamas. “Hi, how are you?” “Hello, “ “Sorry,” “Excuse me.” I couldn’t get out of there fast enough as you might imagine.
I scurried around the corner trying not to cry and found the elevator. Quickly I pressed the call button on the elevator continuously until the familiar “ding” announced that I might make it through the humiliation. The doors opened and I darted in with my head down. “Oh thank God!” I said as I quickly turned and pressed my floor number. “How can a one person have such bad luck?” I said out loud as I glanced up at the floor indicator. The elevator began to rise and my heart rate began to settle a little. “I am out of the woods now, safe, no problem.” I thought.
A voice arose behind me. “Son, it looks and sounds like you have had a long day. Maybe a casino isn’t the best place for you right now.” I slowly turned to see two sweet little ole’ ladies standing behind me smiling. One had an oxygen tank but she was grinning like a possum eating grapes. I wanted to crawl under the elevator doors and slither off into a corner somewhere, but I was trapped. I took a deep breath, looked down at the floor and said to them, “Yes ma’am. You are right. Ms. Toni isn’t here to keep me out of trouble and I am just out of luck.” They both smiled as the door opened and I walked off the elevator. “You ladies have a great night and I hope you win more than I did.” I said.
The door closed as they laughed politely. They weren’t being mean at all. I was actually touched by the way they seemed to understand. “Odd” I thought to myself. But then I realized they both had on wedding bands. Chances are they understood just fine and chose not to make me feel worse. Bless their hearts.
I walked to my room exhausted. I smiled as I approached the door thinking how fun it was going to be when I told Ms. Toni this story. “She won’t believe that I could be this goofy, but she will certainly believe it happened, as always.” I thought. I considered whether or not to write it down for others to read. Later she convinced me that I had to share it.
The same voice from the top of the stairwell piped back up as if he had been right all along. While I walked the last few steps toward my room he seemed to say, “Well Ken, you don’t mind allowing others to have a laugh at your expense from time to time. It’s good clean humor and hey, the terror is over so you can lie down and rest now. Nothing else embarrassing can possibly happen. We made it buddy!”
Remember earlier when I said that little voice was a liar? Here’s proof.
As I looked forward to the end of my trauma, I reached for the door and began to relax. “Just unlock the door and it’s all over.” I thought. I reached into my pajama pocket…
No key… No joke.
Thanks for reading and have a wonderful week. May God bless and keep you.
A Final Note:
When I am in my “inner three year old” moods, I am not thinking about others. I am selfish and self-centered. Those are the times that I get the most frustrated and possibly depressed. During these times, I am not thinking of others and rarely consider acting in charity toward someone else, nor am I thinking of “loving” anyone else as the Bible teaches. Every time this happens, I lose.
I believe that when Jesus spoke to us in the New Testament about loving our neighbors, brothers and sisters, and even our enemies, he meant that “love” was a verb. Love isn’t something you fall into like a mud puddle. Love isn’t a noun. Love is a verb, an action, something you actively do and work toward doing well. That is what I think Jesus meant. He knows that if we do good for others or “love them” with a truly charitable heart, it will benefit us more than those we serve in most cases, making for a better more fulfilling life for us and for the person we are serving. When we serve others, the selfishness disappears, we are much less prone to being “offended” and generally have a better outlook on life. He knew it when He spoke those words. It is a win/win for everyone.
Experts say that you cannot be depressed while in the act of true charity. I would say that in my experience that is true as when I am honestly trying to freely help another human being, I am at my happiest and most relaxed. I have tried to prove them wrong many times but always end up proving them right. Isn’t it funny that Jesus gave us this advice so many centuries ago and it is still true today in the age of satellite TV’s and smart phones. Maybe He knows us better than we want to admit. It is worth consideration.