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A Lesson In Patience

by Lisa Manning on July 3, 2013

patience1One Sunday, after church, I stopped at the pharmacy to refill a prescription.  I was headed to Ohio to visit my family.  I still had to get home to finish packing so I wasn’t late picking up a friend and her twins who were riding with me.  When I turned the corner to the pharmacy, I saw the line.  The. Very. Long. Line.   There must have been 12-14 people.  I am not sure I have ever before or since seen a line that long in a small pharmacy.   I didn’t have much choice but to wait.  At least 1/2 hour later, I was nearing the front of the line.  There were 3 people behind the counter.  A pharmacy technician was busy filling prescriptions.  A cashier was waiting on customers.  The third looked as if she was taking inventory.  I was already annoyed when it happened.

I was finally next.  But, before the cashier had the chance to wait on me, an older gentleman, probably in his 80’s, stepped up to the counter next to me.  The cashier greeted him by name.  He was obviously a  regular customer.  Then, she called his name to the pharmacy technician who proceeded to get his prescription ready.  This man hadn’t even waited in line;  just sauntered up to the counter and they were waiting on him.  In case that wasn’t irritating enough, once he got his medicine bottles (and I am not making this up!), he dumped all 5 of them out on the counter and started counting the pills.

I was totally exasperated at this point.  I literally threw my hands up in the air and started shaking my head at the staff.  You have to be kidding.  It was now close to an hour, and I have to wait for this man to count hundreds of pills.  Without a word, I let the staff and everyone around me know that I was furious.  The girl taking inventory finally realized what was happening.   She put her clipboard down and came over to the counter.  “Mr. Smith, did you cut in front of all these people?”

He hung his head.  “Yes, I did.”

“Mr. Smith, haven’t we had this conversation before?”


About this time, I noticed the name on the pill bottle, “Mable Smith.”  Instantly, I was flooded with thoughts.  This man was picking up a prescription for his wife.  Judging by his age and the times in which he lived, she had probably taken care of him for his entire life.  Now, the tables were turned and he was taking care of her.  A picture of a frail woman lying in bed with him standing next to her popped into my head.   As all of these thoughts were swirling in my head, I looked at the face of this old man.  There were tears running down his face.  He was embarrassed in front of everyone. 

And it was my fault.  I caused his pain because of my impatience. 

It was Sunday.  It was the Christmas season.  God gave his Son for me and yet, I couldn’t give up 5 minutes of my time for another person who needed a little compassion.  Tears stung in my eyes and my stomach churned.  I reached out and touched his hand.  “Can I help you?”  Together we counted his pills and he paid.  Our eyes met.  “Merry Christmas,” I said as he turned to walk away.  I apologized to the staff behind the counter.  The experience was humbling.  Once inside my car, I sobbed.  The guilt of that moment was overwhelming. 

That incident happened over 15 years ago but it is often replayed in my mind.  A friend recently complimented how I treat staff and others in public places.  Certainly, I am not perfect but that day taught me a lesson in patience I will never forget.

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy  and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another…  Col. 3:12




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