I walked into a room full of people at the department of motor vehicles last Thursday. My first instinct was to turn around and walk out, but alas, it was imperative I renewed my driver’s license. I pulled out a #2 ticket from the Take-A-Number dispenser on the wall, and looked for the “now-serving” display, but couldn’t find it. I asked a person sitting next to the ticket dispenser what number we were on.
“Eighty-six,” she said, pointing to the display on the wall behind us, “but it’s moving very, very slow!” Several others shook their heads in mournful agreement.
“A few people have already left!” One man said disgustedly. It was going to be a long, long wait. I ran to the car, got a book to read, and came back. I chose one of the three empty chairs on one side of the room, near the customer service counter.
After about 15 minutes passed, nothing had changed. The same two people being helped when I walked in were still at the front counter. There were only two employees available. Wow! This will drag on and on. I thought. A teenage girl and her mother walked in and sat next to me. They sighed at the long wait. They were #3. “We have a long wait,” I said, showing the mother my ticket. The girl was studying a driver’s handbook.
Forty-five minutes after I got there, a woman in her forties I will call Susan, finished her business at the counter, walked towards us on her way to the exit door, then stopped, and gave the teenage girl a #1 ticket, then she handed me a #96. The display had moved up to 94.
“Here, you can go when she calls #96.” She said quietly.
“I wouldn’t feel right about it.” I said not accepting the ticket. I scanned the tired faces in the room.
“You don’t want be done sooner?” she said in disbelief.
“These people were here before me. Thanks anyway.”
“Pssh,” she said and walked towards an older couple. They refused it also. She rolled her eyes and threw the ticket in the trash, then walked out the door with an obvious expression of annoyance.
The girl beside me looked at me, and rolled up her shoulders. Her mother had excused herself to make a phone call about ten minutes before.
“These people have been waiting a long time,” I said.
The girl gave me an awkward look, and put her headphones on. “Look,” the girl said when her mother came back, “I could go sooner!” Her mother looked at the #1 ticket and gave me a confused look. I told her about Susan.
Finally, one hour and thirty minutes after I had walked in to the DMV, they called #00. “I’m next!” The girl held up the #1 ticket.
“Please God, my back is killing me, I just want to get out of here,” I pleaded silently.
“Oh no you are not, this lady is next!” Her mother said referring to me. “You will wait till your number is called.” The girl gave her mother a sour look.
Her mom looked at me and winked. “Besides, this lady will kill you if you go before her.” We both chuckled. I was proud of her choice to teach her daughter integrity. Eight minutes later, after the call to #1 went silent, #2 was called. I could not have been happier after sitting on those terribly hard chairs.
In this day, when inappropriate behavior can easily be dismissed with a flippant “My-bad”, I believe many have lost the sense of what it genuinely means to care about others. Susan gave herself an emotional boost, thinking she was doing something nice, then walked out irritated that her “thoughtful” act wasn’t appreciated. But she missed the whole point of kindness and generosity in my opinion.
Her tickets were meant to allow us to cut in line, in front of those who had been waiting before us. Though she may have thought of it as doing us a favor, it would have only made the others feel cheated. It proved to me her priorities were not so much on helping people as they were on her “good deed for the day.”
Susan was probably passing on tickets left behind by those who gave up waiting and left. I wondered if she was the mother of teenage kids, what level of integrity and moral examples she was modeling for her kids at home. In contrast, the woman next to me was modeling good morals for her daughter, and showing her that a genuine act of kindness shouldn’t deprive other people.
Luke 16:10 “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much.
By ~ Elizabeth Yalian 2013 ©http://hiseyeisonthissparrow.com.