Here in the Shanghai International District of the Church, our District President, Stephen W. Dyer, shared an interesting experience in his recent remarks at District Conference. He confessed that one of the few things that bothers him in China is the lack of order in lines. When people are queuing, there is a frustrating tendency for people to cut in line and ignore what Americans generally take as basic rules. President Dyer explained that after one tiring and stressful day, he was standing in the line for taxis near the Science and Technology Museum, after having already waited a long time in vain at his office for a taxi. It was a Friday evening and it was raining—two very bad conditions for finding taxis.
As he was in line, he felt someone nudging up behind him and immediately went into defensive mode to prevent line jumping, spreading his arms out a bit and standing to cut off the easiest route for would-be line jumper behind him. After all the things that had gone wrong that day, he didn’t need a line jumper to cause further delay.
He was surprised when the person behind him didn’t seem to get the hint and kept nudging against him as if ready to spring in front any time. President Dyer shifted in response to maintain his blocking effect. The line jumper didn’t back off. Who was this irritating and annoying person who wouldn’t take a hint? Finally, feeling genuinely irked, he turned around to see who this rude person was and perhaps tell him to back off. What he saw left him feeling embarrassed and chastened for the feelings that he had.
The person who had been irritating him so persistently was obviously not attempting to line jump. The reason he was standing so close was that he needed to stand that close—in order to keep holding his umbrella over President Dyer. This stranger in China had been striving to serve, naturally sharing his shelter from the rain with a stranger from America. President Dyer was ashamed to have felt so irritated and was touched by the charity he had received.
That’s a scene from the China I love where the goodness of the people can easily catch you off guard.
It’s also a symbol of the Lord’s love for us. His efforts through other people or various means to shield and protect us in love are sometimes perceived as threats and irritants that we must block and avoid. This is especially true for those who are annoyed by persistent efforts from church leaders or other church members to help them or bring them back to activity or keep them out of danger, but it can apply to all of us in other settings. It is easy to take offense and misjudge others when their intentions are quite different than what we assumed. And it’s easy to see the hand of the Lord in our lives as the work of an irritating line jumper trying to delay us, when if we would turn around and soften our hearts, we might be astounded at the help being offered.
By the way, President Dyer has informed me that the same thing happened to him and his family at the same taxi queue many months later. This time they were waiting for literally hours in a cold drizzle. A woman behind them held her umbrella over his daughter and her friend for more than an hour. He was again very touched and grateful for this charitable act.