Here's Pastor Dave McDowell's weekly devotional that he sends out to members of his church. Dave is my brother and serves as the Music Minister at Stewartstown UMC in PA.
(this story happened a few years ago, but still one of my favorites)
Sometimes you need to raise the glass
But there are times too put it down as well.
Anyone who knows me, knows I love Shamrock Shakes.
I love them so much that for sake of health and body mass,
I restrict myself to one shake a year,
That would be one Extra Big Biggie on St Patrick's Day.
Several years ago,
I ran into problems regarding my Shamrock Shake tradition.
There was the I'm sorry but we're out of them debacle of '07,
and the pistachio con job in '08.
In 2009, I was determined to let nothing stop me
from getting my Extra Big Biggie Shake.
And yes, unfortunately, this story is true.
It was the year that I was also in search of chocolate coins for an upcoming fundraiser.
When I was younger, the coins used to be easy to find
in most drugstores and supermarkets around St Patrick's Day.
In recent years though, they were difficult to locate.
A friend of mine told me they could be found in a chocolate shop located in a nearby mall.
Since there was a McDonald's located in the mall,
I planned a trip on March 17th to get both my Shamrock Shake and the chocolate coins.
Once in the mall,
I hightailed it immediately to the McDonalds.
My three year Shamrock Shake drought was about to end.
As I left the restaurant,
I let the first taste of the green nectar slip down my throat.
There is nothing else quite like the first taste of a creamy mint.
This time, I was not to be denied my Shamrock Shake fest.
That was, until I headed over to the chocolate shop.
Upon entry, I greeted the cashier and explained that I was in search of chocolate coins.
While she apportioned the number of coins that I needed,
I explained that I needed them for an upcoming fundraiser.
I continued to take slow deep sips of the minty confection as we continued to chit chat.
I was in heaven and heaven was painted green.
Out of nowhere, the conversation quickly changed
as the cashier abruptly commented,
"My cat just died"
There was that brief moment when I pondered whether or not
to continue to enjoy my Extra Big Biggie pleasure
at the expense of someone's sorrow……
I opted for selfishness
and took another deep sip
as I offered a perfunctory expression of sympathy.
"Her name was Flickers" she whimpered.
I was in trouble.
She had named it.
She had made it personal.
She wasn't going to stop.
There are cultural norms to observe when someone is mourning........
flowers are sent,
meals are provided,
hugs are offered,
expressions of sympathy are extended.
I continued to ponder the morality
of enjoying a long awaited culinary pleasure
while in the presence of someone who was hurting.
And so I reasoned.......
since the Extra Big Biggie Cup was opaque,
and my minty pleasure was unknown to her.
I could continue to savor my frosty delight
while offering sympathetic expressions on behalf of Flickers.
Everyone would get a ribbon!
"The last few weeks were terrible," she said
I paused, and then I slurped once again.
"It was Feline Leukemia" she said as she bared her soul to me.
"She really suffered in the end" the cashier continued.
Slower slurp as guilt began to set in.
" In the last days, it was awful,
she was in a lot of pain,
and there was this green cat diarrhea."
"It was thick and so messy. Just awful"
I put my Shamrock Shake down.
Party now officially interrupted.
If there were three words that I didn't need to hear
while inhaling my Shamrock Shake,
it was green cat diarrhea.
My love fest with sugar and cream
needed to be exchanged for moments of compassionate listening.
I told her that I understood the pain of letting a pet go.
I told her that I would be praying for her
that she would find a happiness to eventually replace the sorrow she was experiencing.
Life is filled with a mixture of sorrow and happiness.
Sometimes they happen simultaneously.
Sometimes, they come out of nowhere.
The repentant criminal on the cross next to Jesus,
experienced the joy of salvation
while enduring the agony of crucifixion.
The unrepentant criminal on the other side
knew only pain and agony.
Two attitudes, two responses
And One in the middle to meet them both.
Joy and sorrow
all converging on a wooden cross.
The cashier I met,
needed someone to listen to her pain.
Sometimes, that means setting aside one's glass of happiness for a while.
Eventually, the glass will be raised again.
Whether you cross paths with someone whose glass is raised in celebration
or is presently put to the side in despair,
believe that you were placed in that person's life for a reason,
if only for a moment.
That moment may make all the difference in the world to that person.
The response you give, will make all the difference in you.
To Flickers' owner,
I will raise my glass to you on this St. Patrick's Day.
My prayer is that you found happiness once again,
and that your glass is once again raised.
As for me and my Shamrock Shake,
Maybe next year………….(sigh)
"Truly I say to you,
today you shall be with me in Paradise."