Saturday, March 20, 2010

Blessed are the Mr. Smiths

I was 22 the year I bought the white Corvette, a splendid car with mag wheels and T-tops—a beautiful machine with a powerful hum and a maximum speed of 160—sleek and full of fire.

Racy and raring to fly off at the slightest provocation, the car and I had much in common. Perched behind its wheel, I felt certain there was little I had left to learn about life. That’s when Mr. Smith came to manage the branch office where I worked as a customer representative at General Motors Acceptance Corporation in Beaumont, Texas.

Mr. Smith, a quiet man with black-rimmed glasses, had a face that always smiled. He moved in a polished way, smoothly, as if certain he was headed in the right direction. Yet he possessed a charming naivete, blushing freely, cackling at dumb jokes.

One Monday morning, my immediate supervisor, whom I’ll call Mr. Jones, announced a meeting. It was no secret that I disliked Mr. Jones; the feeling was mutual. On more than one occasion, he and I clashed, sending sparks flying like two live wires in a rainstorm. So, not a little irritated, I drifted into the meeting and took a chair. Lunch was a half-hour away, I had a date, and was starving already.

As soon as the meeting began, I sensed something was askew. Mr. Jones began sweating—something he did under duress—and the room reeked of unpleasant odors. I sat inspecting my perfectly groomed nails, trying hard not to breathe.

About midway through the meeting, Mr. Jones became visibly upset, swearing and cursing. After he used God's name a couple of times, I flew out of my chair, announced, "I don't have to listen to that kind of language," and stomped noisily from the room, leaving Mr. Jones and all of my coworkers staring after me in stunned disbelief.

Promptly, Mr. Jones chased after me, ordering me into Mr. Smith's office. Once there, I collapsed into the nearest chair and burst into tears.

With a wave of his hand, Mr. Smith dismissed the flustered Mr. Jones and sat there silently while I attempted to compose myself. For several minutes, I blubbered and sobbed, while trying to excuse my irrational behavior.

Still, Mr. Smith said nothing, reached inside his navy blazer, handed me a crisp, white handkerchief, motioned for me to use it. Then, calmly, he asked, "What happened out there?"

“I don’t know,” I said between sobs. "He started cussing, and I guess I just lost my temper. Sometimes that man makes me so mad.” I was yelling like a spoiled brat.

"Maybe so, Dayle, but he’s your boss. You must show him respect." As always, Mr. Smith was smiling.

Just then, a faint knock sounded at the door. Mr. Jones peeked inside, his face beet red. "When you get through in here," he said, glaring at me, "come back to the meeting; you need to hear this."

And that’s when, unable to stop my silly, impetuous self, I leaped up from my chair and roared, "I am not coming back to your stupid meeting!"

"Dayle," Mr. Smith pleaded futilely in the background, "Please! Sit down!"

But I would not. Fuming, I charged past Mr. Jones, headed straight for my desk, snatched my purse, and plunged out the door trembling, while my coworkers sat like statues, watching this astonishing scene unfold.

"Where are you going?" Mr. Smith, now standing in the center of the room, called after me.

"I don't know!" I yelled, loud enough for the entire tenth floor to hear.

In the elevator, I dabbed at my eyes with Mr. Smith’s wilted handkerchief, wondering what on earth I had just done. How ignorant and undisciplined could I be? I had a good job with a major corporation. Now what did I have? Without question, a tarnished job history and a white Corvette would not escort me far in life. Still—it was too late to do anything about it. For how could I return after such a dramatic exit?

My date was parked at the curb. We rode to a nearby deli where lunch proved disastrous. He kept asking what was wrong; I kept saying, “Nothing,” but I couldn’t complete a sentence without tears. Finally, I spilled the entire story, ending with, “What am I going to do?”

"You’re going to go back and talk to your boss—if you want to keep your job,” my wise friend said.

My stomach in knots, I returned to the building, walked to the lobby phone and punched the number. When Mr. Smith came on the line, I said simply, "This is Dayle."

"Yes, Dayle," he said, cool as a cucumber. "What is it?"

"Mr. Smith,” I began feebly. “I’m really sorry about what happened. Could we—I mean—I was wondering—do you reckon—could I—can we ... talk?"

"Where are you?"

"I’m downstairs in the lobby."

"I’ll be right down."

Minutes later, Mr. Smith emerged from the elevator, strode evenly toward me and—unbelievably—smiled. "Why don't we go for a ride in my car," he suggested, his voice strained. Together, we strolled out of the building into the steamy Texas sunshine, a sense of urgency looming between us. I wondered if he would fire me. He had every right.

It was sweltering in the car. No one spoke. Sitting there like two stones, we ambled out into the street, the air-conditioner pumping hot air. We rode two blocks and stopped next to a low-income apartment complex. Aluminum foil squares clung to the windows like tiny shields against the blistering heat.

Drawing his breath in sharply, Mr. Smith said, "Dayle, I must say, I’m disappointed in you."

Staring dumbly out the window, I felt about an inch high.

"You know I could fire you for insubordination."

"I know," I said, barely above a whisper. "You should."

He sighed long and hard. "Maybe," he said. "But I'm not going to."

Slowly I turned toward him, hoping I’d heard correctly. "You’re … not?”

"No, I’m not," he said flatly. You’re a hard worker, and I like you. I know you’re a good person. I also know you’re young. There’s a lot to learn about getting along with people, and it takes time. That’s why I want to give you a second chance."

A second chance? He was offering me a second chance? My heart leaped. I didn’t know what to say. Yet there was so much I wanted to say.

We sat for another minute or so before he steered the car back onto the street. In awkward silence, we rode to the office parking lot and got out.

"Well," Mr. Smith said, still smiling, "I hope you’ve learned a lesson through all of this, Dayle. Mr. Jones is not a bad person. He’s just trying to do his job. Sometimes we all behave poorly.” He touched my shoulder. "Now, why don't you take the rest of the day off, get some rest, and I’ll see you in the morning."

Dumbfounded, I mumbled my thanks, watched him disappear into the building.

On the drive home, I kept the Corvette at a slow pace. I couldn’t just speed away as if nothing had happened.

In retrospect, what could have been a devastating event for me—though duly deserved—turned into a wake-up call. My youth had been a breeding ground for self-centeredness, impatience, an unforgiving spirit. But because of Mr. Smith's willingness to look past my immaturity and bad behavior, I learned a most valuable lesson: It is a good thing to show mercy; one never knows when one might need it.


Blessed are the merciful Mr. Smiths : for they shall obtain mercy.

Matthew 5:7 (KJV)

Taken from the book, Silver Linings, by Dayle Allen Shockley. All rights reserved.


I'm linking up with the Sunday blog party, hosted by Charlotte and Ginger. It's a great place to gather.

19 comments:

  1. We could all learn from Mr. Smith. This is a wonderful post.

    Blessings,
    Joan

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  2. Again, I can't tell you how I enjoyed this. What a lesson for you. Thanks for sharing it with us. Where in the world would we all be if not for the "second chances" and "do overs" the Lord blesses us with everyday? Have a good week. Blessings, Debbie

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  3. What a beautiful story! God bless all the Mr. Smiths of the world.:)

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  4. Love this story--and the "silly, impetuous" girl who wrote it. :-)

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  5. What a great lesson you learned and taught to all who read this post. I'm so glad you were given a second chance. Everyone needs a second chance now and then. Thank you so much for sharing your experience with us.
    I'm glad you enjoyed your visit to our area. It gets awfully hot in the summer, but we love it here.
    Blessings,
    Charlotte

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  6. I love this story...I love the fight you had in you but the grace Mr. Smith had for you....great story...

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  7. Another amazing story - I was riveted until the end. It is so fortunate that we learn important lessons from the events of our youth.

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  8. This was an incredible story! Thank you for sharing. I enjoyed stopping by.

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  9. Thanks for visiting! And I enjoyed your post today. What a gracious boss... and yes, sometimes it takes years of LIFE to mature us to the point where we can look for the struggles behind the visible behavior! Finally at almost 50...I have learned this (well, we never stop learning things...) I'm trying! God is a gracious God and always gives 2nd chances when we are sorry. I want to be like that too!
    Thank you for a great post.

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  10. What an interesting story...and example of grace!

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  11. A tremendously, compelling story of mercy and graciousness. You kept me glued to the screen. Thank you so much for sharing this with us.

    God bless!!

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  12. Wonderful story. I don't usually read long posts. I just pass over them judgmentally thinking that with some hard work they could have written a shorter post. You write in such an interesting way I have to keep reading. You have also taught me to be more patient and read some of the longer posts. I may be missing a blessing. Thank you.

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  13. ♥♥WHT A LOVELY BLOG.I ENJOYED SO MUCH READ SUM OF THE POST.CONGRATS E GOD BLESS YOU♥♥

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  14. Dayle, great story! Loved reading! You had me from begining to end. And what a great moral this story holds.

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  15. I think this was a wonderful way to learn a lesson. What a wonderful way the Lord worked in your life that day.
    God Bless,
    Ginger

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  16. Dayle, I enjoy reading your stories so much! Thank you for sharing!

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  17. We all need Mr. Smith's in our lives. May I be a Mrs. Smith when needed.

    Thank you for sharing this truth in a new light.

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  18. Hi Dayle,
    Sorry, I'm a bit late with my SS rounds. We all need a second chance now and then. Thank you for sharing your story and I'm glad you got your second chance too. Have a wonderful week.

    Blessings,
    Sandi

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Dear Readers, I adore your company and your comments. If you ask questions here, I respond to them here, so please check back when you have a chance. Kind regards, Dayle