The waiting area was packed at our local first-come-first-served hair cutting establishment, when a woman in business attire breezed in. Before she could even sit down, her name was called. “Wait,” complained an elderly gentleman at her elbow, “I was here before she was, why does she get to go first?”
“Well,” explained the woman at the desk, “she checked in online 40 minutes ago, and as you can see, her name is at the top of the list.” She pointed to the screen on the desk.
The elderly man, whose name was apparently “Ed,” since that was the name next on this list, was not impressed. He probably had no concept of online check-in, and at that point, probably didn’t care. He argued with the woman at the desk, and was insistent enough that another employee stepped in to try to explain. Finally the business woman herself spoke up. “It’s okay,” she said as if it were the obvious choice, “he can go first.”
“Are you sure?” asked the woman behind the desk, looking warily at the business woman.
“Yes. Please, go ahead.” She gestured Ed to the chair. “It doesn’t make that much difference to me.”
Ed got up with a look of triumph, mumbling something about people cutting lines. Without a word the business woman sat down to tend to her folder of papers. There was no eye-rolling, and no expectation of a pat on the back. She owned her decision and that was that.
From the outside looking in, it seemed to me that Ed had no frame of reference to recognize that he got a place in line that was really not his..
From the outside looking in, it seemed to me that the business woman voluntarily gave up what was rightfully hers.
From the outside looking in, it seemed that truth did not win in this situation, yet it also seemed like something bigger was at play than the truth of who was technically next in line. Whatever the case, the person “in power” chose to let it go; to let someone else have her place. It was a little thing … or was it? What would happen if we could hold onto things that are “rightfully ours” a little more loosely?
“But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.” (Matt 19:30),