A funny thing happened to me recently while driving home from work. It had been a long day and I really wanted to get home. My stomach was growling most likely because I had skipped dinner, so I drove to a local burger joint only to discover that the drive thru window was closed. I decided I’d stop at another burger place closer to home. My rationale was that it would be quicker to go through a drive thru than go into the store to order dinner. I just wanted to grab a burger and get home.
All the traffic lights seemed to be “with me” for a change so when I pulled up to pay at the drive thru window, I figured I’d soon be on my merry way home with a bag of fries and a burger in hand. It was all going so well until I asked that one question that changed everything…all I asked the woman at the window was, “How are you doing tonight?” For what seemed like close to five minutes, this woman shared her feelings with me, a total stranger, while I impatiently waited for my food order. As I listened to her talk about how it was her dad’s anniversary of his death AND her uncle had just died, my impatience turned to compassion and my “hangry” attitude melted away. I have no idea why she chose to share ANY of this information with me, but I knew my role here had to be one of patient listener. When she handed me the warm bag of food, all I could say was “Thank you,” and “I will be thinking of you. Please take care.”
As I drove home, the burger and fries didn’t really seem to matter that much. The short exchange of words with a stranger, the quiet understanding of what it means to miss a parent who has died, that had already filled me up in a different way.
Advent is coming up soon, followed by Christmas. Sometimes during the days leading up to Christmas, I can get so consumed with the “busyness” of the season that I forget to watch for the little signs of Christ present in others and everyday situations. If I always seek the “drive thru” moments, I may miss out on the wonder and beauty of this time of joyful anticipation that is Advent. I encourage you to occasionally take the “long way home” this Advent instead of staying on the fast track. Let’s usher in this Advent season slowly and mindfully. O Come, O Come, Emmanuel!