A train was filled with tired people. Most of them had spent the day traveling through the hot, dusty plains. At last, evening had come and they all tried to settle down to a sound sleep.
However, at one end of the car a man was holding a tiny baby, and as night came on the baby became restless and cried more and more. Unable to take it any longer, a big brawny man spoke for the rest of the group. "Why don't you take that baby to its mother?"
There was a moment's pause and then came the reply. "I'm sorry. I'm doin' my best. The baby's mother is in her casket in the baggage car ahead."
Again there was an awful silence for a moment. Then the big man who asked the cruel question was out of his seat and moved toward the man with the motherless child. He apologized for his impatience and unkind remark.
He took the tiny baby in his own arms and told the tired father to get some sleep. Then in loving patience he cared for the little child all through the night.
How often do you stop to think about what another person is going through when you become agitated? Think about the driver of a vehicle who is speeding and weaving in and out of traffic. Instead of cursing such a person, do you ever offer a prayer? Perhaps there is a medical emergency, or a friend or loved one who needs serious help.
So many people's reactions today show a lack of patience or an attempt to understand, including the immediate reaction that takes another's actions like they were an intentional personal affront. So, retaliation or harsh words are engaged.
Do you have what it takes to give someone the benefit of the doubt when something unpleasant happens? Do you have what it takes to realize that not everything that happens to you was done intentionally? Do you have what it takes to offer a prayer instead of a curse?
Disciples of Jesus Christ should take Paul's admonition seriously: "And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kindly to everyone, an apt teacher, patient, correcting opponents with gentleness." (2 Timothy 2:24)
It's not always easy to do, but with time and a great deal of practice, kindness and patience will become a way of life. Harsh and rash assumptions will disappear. And relationships will grow.
The Rev. Mark Broadhead is pastor at Laurel Hill Presbyterian Church and First Presbyterian Church of Crestview.