The wintry December air in Columbus, Ohio, caused small puffs of steam to billow with each breath. Amy and I had been married on December 1 and had just returned from our honeymoon to find our magical first Christmas tree.
We drove around the city before finally steering into a church parking lot.
It was a Saturday evening around five o’clock and many people were making their way into the church for an evening mass. We approached a man in his late fifties who appeared to be heading the operation. He gave us the lay of the land and a description of every cut of tree on the lot.
While we listened, we noticed a car had pulled into the parking lot and was trying to get through. Our salesman was standing the way while the woman waited patiently. Finally, she rolled down her window. “Excuse me, Joe, may I please get by?”
Amy and I had stepped out of the way, but the man looked at the woman and snapped. “Sure, but you know mass starts at five o’clock,” he barked. It was 5:06 p.m.
The car crept by, and the man went back to our discussion. Like deer in headlights, Amy and I stood still in the awkward moment. But the moment was only getting started. Joe’s sharp tone had clearly upset the woman, and after parking, she marched directly up to him.
“I don’t appreciate you treating me that way as I’m trying to get to church.”
“Well, you should have been here at five o’clock!” Joe responded.
Amy and I, the two deer, froze. All we wanted was a magical first Christmas tree.
“I’m sorry, but I’m doing my best,” the woman responded.
“Well, you should have been here at five o’clock!” Joe barked, even louder.
“That is awful to say,” the woman continued. “I’m trying my hardest, but with my recent divorce it isn’t exactly the easiest thing to drop the kids off clear across town and get to church.”
“Well, you should have been here at five o’clock!” he shouted again as the woman rushed toward the church entrance.
Joe turned his attention back to us and attempted to smoothly transition back to trees. Amy and I said we were going to look elsewhere.
I choose to believe this was a nice guy who got caught up in a moment that didn’t bring out the best in him. We all have our moments where we lost sight of the big picture and our emotions overtake us. But when our behavior is in obvious contrast to the purpose of the moment, perhaps we’ve lost our way.
We mustn’t forget the big picture. We can’t be standing in a church parking lot, selling Christmas trees as a fundraiser for the church, and at the same time yell at someone who’s late for church for reasons we may not know. We must remember the purpose we’re trying to accomplish.
We have to take time to remember the point.
This season, as we rush from store to store, fight traffic, stress over budgets, and navigate the politics of gatherings, let’s make one simple phrase a priority: Remember the point.
Jason Barger is the globally celebrated author of Step Back from the Baggage Claim, ReMember, and the newly released book Thermostat Cultures, as well as a coveted keynote speaker and leadership consultant. More importantly, he’s striving to be an above average father, husband, and friend.
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