Monday, February 07, 2005


I walked up to a window at the post office today and gave the clerk there the meticulously organized information required to get a passport, which I need by the time I fly to Vancouver next week. I know--I should have allowed more time. In my defense, a surprise job required my leaving the country and I thought I had my birth certificate here at home until about 3 weeks ago. Turns out I didn't, so I had to order it from a place in Little Rock and have the process "expedited", which I think is latin for "outrageously expensive." But I'd done my homework and found out that if I was willing to take out a second mortgage once I got to the post office I could still have my passport by next week.

Though she gave no visual sign that she intended to do so, the postal clerk asked how she could help me. I put my paperwork on the counter and told her that I needed to apply for a passport. Without looking up, she asked me when I needed it. By February 17 I said, trying to make it sound like the date was many months in the future. She looked up then. In fact, she stared at me for what seemed like a minute. This is why those post office lines are always so long. The clerks are busy staring at their customers in order to communicate how annoyed with them they are. She let out a sigh before she looked down to start handling the paperwork. As she shuffled forms, made check marks and stamped things she shook her head slowly with her eyebrows raised and muttered, "I'm blessed. I am truly blessed."

I suppose I should confess that about 70 percent of the time I'm annoyed when people use the phrase, "I'm blessed." Sometimes people say it as an expression of genuine gratitude, which touches me. But usually one of many other possible shades of meaning glom on to what otherwise would be a perfectly wonderful sentiment.

People Who Use the Expression "I'm Blessed" and What They Often Mean
  • Some atheletes, often accompanied by a finger (index) pointed to the sky : "I'm afraid not to credit God with my atheletic superiority since setting him off could result in an injury that would cause me to lose my multi-million dollar salary, not one dime of which I'm saving at the moment." Or, "This is the best way I know to let people know I'm a Christian without having to demonstrate any strength of character."

  • Some evangelically bent Christians to people they barely know, usually while staring them in the face: "Even though there is no logical way for me to work this into a conversation with you since we've just met, I'd like to let you know that I'm a Christian. I know it's not the best lead in for me to tell you about Christ. A relationship would work much better, but I don't really have time for that. This rarely if ever works, but I keep hoping...besides, if I say it, it is kind of like I get credit for spreading the Gospel. It's not my fault that you aren't interested enough in the state of your soul to ask me what I mean."

  • Disgruntled, perhaps evangelical in persuasion, postal worker, accompanied by wagging head: "What the...Good Lord, why did you let this fool step into my line? Is this about that "rejoice in our suffering" business I heard the preacher talking about on Sunday? Well even if it is, this man is NOT getting out of here without knowing the kind of pain in my ass he's causing. I'm gonna let this boy know just how well I understand what Christian suffering truly is thanks to him, because he has just hauled it in to me on a silver platter."

Ironically, I've been attending a Bible study on Matthew that our pastor is leading in which we've talked at some length about who's blessed as far as Jesus was concerned in the Beatitudes. Turns out all of those people I mentioned aren't just fooling themselves. They really are blessed! To be honest, I don't understand the Beatitudes. Some of them, like "blessed are the peace makers," seem pretty straight forward. Others like, "blessed are those who mourn" make less sense. The more convinced someone seems to be that their interpretation is the correct one, the less convinced I end up being that they are right. I don't know why that is. But I do know I used to be on the "giving" end of right interpretations and I can't even convince myself anymore.

Back to the post office. The woman had a LOT of paperwork to fill out to complete my passport request. I had plenty of time to cool off and eventually work up the grace to tell her I was sorry that my application was stressing her out. I briefly explained my situation. She looked up and gave me a half-smile, a sincere one, the kind you see on people who make a career out of loving the people they torture. At one point, between stamping and checking things and asking me those questions that the federal goverment requires them to ask, she said, "Honey, I give everybody a hard time." When she finally finished all of the processing and collecting the 115.00 bucks(!) required to "expidite" my request she looked at me and said, "You have a good time in Vancouver. When you get home, come back and tell me all about it."


Post a Comment

<< Home