Recently, I found myself in a hospital with a member of my family, attending a routine appointment. There is, I learned, a lot of waiting about in hospitals. After an hour, our name was called, and brimming with anticipation, we were moved from one waiting room to another almost identical and equally depressing waiting room. Eventually, as dehydration and extreme boredom set in, I set off on an expedition to find refreshments. Having navigated three miles of corridors, I found the hatch where an elderly volunteer was waiting to serve the multitudes of NHS pilgrims with warm and wet drinks of indistinguishable origins into polystyrene cups.
After waiting my turn, I asked politely for two cups of tea. Fairly standard request. The lady nodded slowly at me as if I was demanding something highly unusual, duly ambled off to concoct the tea and then presented them to me with a sigh. Smiling, and offering my deep gratitude, I handed her a fresh £20 note to pay and scarper.
“Oh dear,” she said. “I’m not sure I can take that.”
Slightly mystified at the rejection of my hard earned cash, I assured her that this was, in fact, the only money I had and that it was legal tender as far as I was aware.
“There’s simply no way I can agree to it,” she responded. “We don’t take these. I have no choice…. we are going to have to talk to Jean.”
Right then. Jean.
I looked around for Jean. She looked around for Jean. The queue behind me glared at me while we all waited for Jean, who appeared, as if by magic, wearing a pink housekeeping pinny, a tight grey perm and a disgruntled expression as she made her way ominously into the kitchen.
I stood, like a chastised child, as I observed something akin to a UN summit taking place next to the sink. After much discussion and shaking of heads, an agreement was brokered that meant that I could thank God, pay for my tea and leave. I’ll admit I momentarily wrestled with whether I should ask to have my now lukewarm tea reheated, but thought better of it and left hurriedly, clutching my beige beverages.
Now, these ladies were giving up their time to volunteer in a hospital, so I’m not going to be too hard on them, but it did make me wonder what reception people get when they approach me with a request. Do I roll my eyes or mentally find problems with whatever they are suggesting? Do I make them feel as if they are being highly awkward or do I try to find a solution, even if it means asking somebody else for help? Do I willingly go out of my way to give them what they need?
The truth is, even when we are serving or helping others, our disposition might not be full of grace. No wonder Jesus asked his friends to give cheerfully and to serve wholeheartedly – because we can all do the right thing with the wrong attitude. But you can’t have a positive stance with a negative mind – so perhaps it’s time to prayerfully renew our thinking again, to smile and to pour out a cup of kindness to somebody today.
With or without a pink pinny.