Tuesday, August 5, 2014

A Lesson in Public Witness at Chick-Fil-A

So we went to Chick-Fil-A today, despite the overwhelming guilt I get every time we eat out, both for wasting money and for being a huge fatty. I seriously feel like I'm going to get caught and sent to the principal's office. All these people up in here know I can't afford no drink with my meal. But here I am like some white trash drinkin my sweet tea and giving my baby French fries... It's a sad state of affairs.

Correction: A delicious state of affairs. 

Anyway. We are sitting eating and there is a little purple toy on the floor next to our table. A little girl walks by and stares at it for a minute. Her struggle is so palpable I can almost hear it. She knows the toy isn't hers. But, the shiny. The purple. The tinyyyyyyyyyy... She picks it up and brings it to her mom who is at the booth behind us. I overhear their conversation. 

Girl: I found this toy and it's mine now. 
Mom: Where did you get that?
Girl: I found it on the floor. It's my toy. Someone lost it but now it's mine. 
Mom: Did you see who dropped it?
Girl: No. 
Mom: Are you sure? You don't know who it belongs to?
Girl: No. It's my toy now. 
Mom: (kind of hesitating) OK, well... Since you don't know whose it is, you can keep it. 

Then the girl went back to the play place and I sat there kind of shocked. The thing of it is, a few years ago, I probably would have said the same thing. I mean, there was definitely a chance that the owner of that toy would have gladly stumbled upon it as she walked from the bathroom back to her seat. But it was on the floor for a while, and the person who dropped it was probably long gone. It was a tiny little plastic doll that I would have thrown away rather than keep, if it was Lenny's. And as soon as the woman cleaning the lobby got there with her broom, it was going to be thrown away for sure. What was the mom supposed to tell her, to leave it on the floor where it was?

I know this girl's mother did her best in this situation. She saw that it was a worthless trinket that most likely was going to be thrown away in a minute and there was basically no chance of returning it to the person who lost it. She also didn't need to deal with the kind of embarrassing four-year-old-wailing-in-public fit that may have gone down if she said no. So, she told her daughter to keep it. 

The problem is, it's just not honest. This little girl lost the chance for a very important lesson in honesty. It doesn't matter the circumstances, the toy did not belong to her. Watching her internal struggle as she looked longingly at that little toy on the floor, I know she knew that. She knew it was wrong to take it, otherwise she wouldn't have spent such a long time deciding whether or not she would pick it up. I also believe her conversation with her mother was a small child's way of asking, "What's the right thing to do?" Sadly, her mother failed to instruct her rightly in this situation. Boy, do I know that feeling all too well. It's hard to think on how I just handled a situation with Lenny and not feel stupid, regretting that my desire not to get beat up by a frustrated little boy won out over my duty to teach him patience, temperance, or obedience. 

The thing is, I can't afford to let a moment of comfort and peace take precedence over the upbringing of my children. Especially when I'm out in public. Sometimes it feels like no one is paying any attention to you. You're just enjoying a deep-fried hunk of breaded chicken breast on a warm buttered bun with tangy pickles, dripping in delicious, creamy golden sauce (Sorry... I'm drooling...) and so is everyone else. You are in your own world, and so are they. Except, you're not. They're not. People are listening to you. They see you and they see your kids and they might see you pray before you eat and play monsters with your kids in the play place, but they might also see you get angry and frustrated when your drink is knocked over and the baby scratches your eyeball and they didn't give you enough sauce for your fries. Except they usually won't see the cause of your anger, they'll just read your body language and hear you snapping at your holy and innocent-looking children who literally have rays from heaven shining down on them. And now you are giving Christianity a bad rap. Ouch. 

People will look at you when you go out in public with children. Especially when they're as cute as mine (just saying). Overhearing this little girl's conversation today reminds me that we need to be a constant witness for our faith. People come to the church through attraction, and it's the job of the faithful to attract them. Mothers must witness to the joy of the gospel in the way they interact with their kids in public. There is no way that overhearing me telling my son to basically steal someone else's toy is going to make a stranger say "Hmmm, this woman is so happy and wonderful. I wonder what her secret is?" With my luck it would be the enlightened athiest or a member of the "Jesus is my savior, not my religion" crowd who would see me sign the cross when we pray, see my scapular, and see my hypocrisy and roll their eyes so far back in their head that they might even become permanently blind.  

So do that Catholic thang. You can't guarantee that anyone will ever see the strength it takes to be kind, calm, and happy. But you can guarantee that they won't see grumpy mama. It will be hard, but you can call on God, and he will be your strength. 

"Let our powers combine. 
By these powers combined, I am God!"

(Sorry for the really bad Captain Planet joke. I just had to.)

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