Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The phone call

The phone call was one that I had postponed for days. There was no way in which I wanted to phone the utility company in question, even though I have usually found them helpful and accommodating. Generally, the company from which I needed help would be at the top on the list of the ‘unloved’ for most people in Britain.

Eventually, I could delay no longer. I dialled the number and, as always, was put in a long line, waiting for ‘one of our assistants to answer your call’. I was not particularly impressed when the recorded voice informed me that my contact and custom were valued. Finally, someone responded and told me that I had dialled the wrong extension… Stubbornly, I continued and was finally connected correctly.

I do not know the age of the man to whom I eventually spoke and can only say that he was a Londoner and had possibly been near a church once or twice in his life, possibly even a Catholic church, for that matter. Whilst he worked on the subject of my phone call, we chatted. Soon we were both laughing over each other’s stories and jokes.

As our conversation and business drew to an end, I heard that, only a few days ago, this same man had responded to two, consecutive, abusive phone calls, the second of which was so bad that he put down the receiver. This afternoon’s had been rather different! “Thank you for your fantastic call,” he said. “I’ve really enjoyed it.”

To be honest, so had I and a potentially major inconvenience had turned into a very pleasant interlude.

There is no excuse for rudeness and abusive behaviour. So much can be done by courtesy. Of course there are moments of intense irritation when any one of us would like to explode with all the pent-up frustrations that have hitherto been held in check. But we rarely know all that our intended object has also been bearing. I might have been another person’s ‘last straw’ every bit as much as they might have been mine.

The story is told of a monk with a very quick temper, who died in the midst of one of his outbursts. His community decided that he could not possibly have been forgiven by God for such rage and so they didn’t bother to pray for him. Then came the night when the abbot had a vision. God told him, “You thought that your brother died because he lost his temper. I know that he died because of his efforts to control it.”

God bless,
Sr. Janet