My job is in patio home sales, and quite often I encounter some unpleasant people. Usually I can contain my contempt and put on a happy face. Other times it can be more difficult to be civil in the face of nastiness and outright rudeness.

I find that if someone comes into the beautiful model that I show and they start picking it apart with disparaging comments, I have a tendency to shut down. I take any offensive comment about our lovely homes personally and start judging the customer for having a foul attitude.

This past summer I dealt with a lady who recently lost her husband and was looking to down-size and simplify her life by purchasing a patio home. I worked with her over a period of several weeks as she moaned and groaned trying to make decisions.

Each time she came to visit with me she brought her two rambunctious grandchildren who made a point to run amok through the model, jumping on beds, tossing pillows and overflowing the water tank. I came so close to telling her that I would refuse to work with her and her grandchildren and she would need to visit without them in tow. I found myself falling short on patience as her critical spirit harped about this thing and that. It was with great relief that she cancelled her reservation and did not follow through on a contract.

Last Saturday night Tom and I ventured out to church to attend our Empower Adult Bible Fellowship class at Southeast Christian. For some reason or another, the room was more tightly packed with people than usual. During the course of introductions, two women were welcomed as first time visitors. One looked very familiar. I reached across the table to the class secretary and asked if she remembered the name of the dark haired lady. She did. It was my “difficult customer.” My mind started thinking back to the summer months when I struggled to overcome my disdain for the lady and her grandchildren. I wondered if she would find my presence in the classroom as much of an offense as I had found my interaction with her on the purchase of a new home.

At the end of class I saw her making her way to my table. I thought, “Oh, oh! Now I’m in for it!” She got to the table and I smiled and said, “Well, hello!” She looked at me and said, “Judy, the minute I saw that you were in this class I looked over at my friend here and said, ‘Well, seeing her here explains why she was so patient with me.'”

I was speechless.

Later, as my husband and I drove home I told him, “That was a close call, you know?

It could have gone another way completely. If I had said what I wanted to say to her, then she would have been totally turned off to our church and our class.”

I was reminded of the song I sang as a child, “O, be careful little mouth what you say.” And, I’m more mindful today than I was, that my every action, my every word, my every gesture, can be a catalyst to bring glory to God or to bring shame to His name.

 Judy Gerdis

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