I had a very bad day yesterday. The reasons behind the bad day aren't important to this blog post, but let's just say it was just as Judith Viorst wrote in her picture book about Alexander. It was a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.
When most people are faced with a bad day they just want it to end. And that's how I felt. After being on the road for 5 hours, all I wanted to do was go home, change into some comfy clothes, kick off my shoes, put my feet up, and sip a favorite drink. Maybe read a book. Or sit by the fire.
But as I was traveling home from The Bad Day, I stopped to make one last Christmas purchase. I was tired but, like The Bad Day, I just wanted it done and over with.
Thankfully my purchase went smoothly and I felt a bit of relief wash over me. I hopped into my car (which wasn't hopping really, more of an awkward, achy lumber) and readied myself for the last 15 minutes of my drive home.
I was just out of the parking lot and approaching a stop sign when I saw three packages in the middle of my lane. Swerving around them, I stopped at the traffic sign and had a conversation with myself.
"That's really too bad. Someone is really going to miss getting those presents for Christmas."
"You should pick them up and take care of them. Otherwise they'll get run over."
"I'm tired. It's not my problem."
"But those presents are going to be ruined. Look! One of the packages even says 'FRAGILE' on it."
"Well, it's probably broken now anyway. I'm tired. And my body aches. I just want to go home."
"What if those gifts were for your family? Wouldn't you want them to receive their presents?"
Now this conversation felt like it took two very long minutes. But I'm guessing I sat at that stop sign staring at those packages for less than ten seconds, when I put my flashers on and jumped out of my car. I gathered them up, fumbling awkwardly, and noticed the line of traffic that accumulated behind me. I ran to the first car in line and waited as he rolled down his window.
"Did you see where these packages came from? I mean, did they fall off a truck or something?"
"No man, I didn't see nuttin. I just pulled up behind yo and saw yo gettin outta yo car."
"Well, someone's got to take care of these. They can't just be left in the middle of the road."
"I mean, shouldn't someone return them? I looks like they came from the UPS store."
"UPS store, man, is by the old Taco Bell."
"Uh. Oh ok. Thanks."
I climbed back into my van, sore feet, achy body, and did what anyone would do. I went to the UPS store.
Once there I told the manager what happened. Clearly disappointed in her employees, disgust crept onto her face as she said, "I'll need to make a few phone calls about this." But her expression quickly changed as she looked into my eyes. "Thanks so much for doing the right thing." Then she asked an associate to go in the back. The girl returned with a cute little box filled with goodies.
As I left the store, I thought about what had happened. Why would Heavenly Father put another obstacle in my way when I'd already had a very trying day? Why would he burden me with one more chore? One more thing to do?
But as I drove home I felt my perspective change about the events of The Bad Day. Somehow The Bad Day didn't feel so horrible anymore. In fact, I realized my burden had been lifted because I felt joy in doing something good for a stranger. They may never know what I did, but I will. And so will my Heavenly Father.
I realized something else. Heavenly Father loves me so much-- he knew what a bad day I'd had-- that he gave me a chance to serve others and to feel better.
It wasn't a test. It was an opportunity.
"Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me." Matthew 25:40