You know when you were younger and someone at school said something mean to you and you just wanted to sit down and cry because it hurt your feelings so much? That's completely normal at five years old, but I was shocked to find this happened to me just a couple weeks ago. It had been a particularly busy day with the kids and I had accomplished almost nothing around the house. Laundry was piled up, dirty dishes were in the sink, the bathrooms were a mess and the floors were hidden beneath a thick layer of dog hair. Andrew gets off work at 1600 (yes, I'm using military time) and the base post office closes at 1630. I had a package I needed to get in the mail that day if it was the last thing I did, so we had to book it to get there on time. I rushed in the door at 1628 right behind another last-minute customer. He finished quickly and I put my package on the counter as I hurriedly taped it up (of course we had run out of packing tape that afternoon). The post office female employee started locking up as I finished taping. When she returned to the desk I said something like, "I'm so sorry for making you stay late on my account". It was now 1630 on the dot.
"Oh, it's okay. It's not like I have a life." I took her sarcastic comment as a self-mocking joke at first and laughed. But as I looked up I realized she was dead serious and definitely not laughing.
"I mean I don't know why people show up at 1630 unprepared," she continued. "But whatever."
My smile faded quickly and I managed an "I'm sorry" as I scribbled the address on the package and handed her my credit card.
"Hurry up," she added. This is when I felt like crying. I know it's silly to take it to heart, but it really brought me back to middle school for a minute. And it eventually got me thinking about the Scripture verse we so often teach to our kids in times like that. "But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven." It's the go-to verse when your kid comes home from school complaining about that mean child in their class who has made it their own goal to make them cry. "Shake it off", we say. "Kill them with kindness". "Be the bigger person". "Love your enemies".
All great advice and very true, but I think as adults we sometimes forget how difficult it is to take that advice in the moment. Most "mean" people we come across now aren't quite as blunt as my post office friend. We like to cut people down with hidden meanings or sarcastic remarks on Facebook. We boast of our incredible parenting skills around the parents of those crazy kids at the playground. We pretend that we're all best friends, but throw in some compliments that are actually insults (I think women are the most guilty of this). "Jane, you must love all of that time to relax now that the kids are off at school! What do you do all day?" AKA I'm jealous of your extra time and would like to make you feel lazy for it. The point is, we've gotten smarter about insulting people since middle school.
But our kids are still stuck in the world where they get an A on a test and the envious kid next to them passes them a note saying they're ugly. That kind of blatant cruelty is shocking, especially for the tender hearts that are still trying to figure out why "i" is before "e" except after "c". The advice we give them is still sound. God will reward us for our kindness, even to those who don't deserve it (do any of us?). But as I walked out of the post office with embarrassing tears welling up in my eyes, I made a mental note to be a little more sympathetic with the "childish" problems that I know Will and Annie will come home with someday. Kindness was definitely not my first thought that day either.
P.S. I got over the whole incident and forgave the post office lady.