Friday, June 30, 2006

"Be nice to your sister"

“Be nice to your sister.” In the home of my youth, my mom spoke that command. Or she would say, “Be nice to your brother.” Niceties also belong in social etiquette.

A few days ago, the summer heat neared 100 degrees, and my car battery refused to start the engine. In a very crowded shopping strip with cars jammed together like sliced bread, I phoned two males in my family for advice.

Both out of town, one advised bumping the battery cables in case they were loose. The other advised calling a wrecker. Battery CPR did no good. I phoned a wrecker.

The sun beat down. Sweat beaded. With the car hood popped open, I avoided eye contact. I didn’t want anyone to think they had to stop and help in that heat. High humidity moistened my clothes but not my throat.

I waited in store-awning shade and watched shoppers jockeying for close-to-the-store parking spaces. My car was only three spaces from the sidewalk. Heat waves shimmered above the pavement. The car next to mine backed out, so I ran and stood in the vacant spot so the wrecker could conveniently pull alongside and use jumper cables.

But he was another six minutes arriving. Thirst mounted. More sweat dribbled. Where is the ozone layer when you need it? I hoisted my black umbrella over my head and politely turned away shoppers who tried to swing into the close-to-the store-vacant spot. Actually these were cousins. I read that all humans are kin by no more than a 50th cousin relationship.

At least 20 cousins drove by looking for that illusive close-parking. Nineteen were polite, courteous, and conversational, even asking if help was on the way. Thank you to all those 30th and 40th considerate cousins.

Then the exception to the rule rolled up. One person forgot her manners, pounded on her steering wheel, shook her head and fist and mouthed angry words from behind her rolled up windows in her air conditioned car.

Those 19 people who gave warm smiles equaled 19 cups of cold water to me. James, a follower of Jesus, wrote “If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing right” (2:8).

When any of us come upon someone experiencing trouble, we can add insult to injury or we can alleviate suffering. A smile, a kind word, or the loan of a cell phone may be all needed. Or we can choose to invest more.

We’re one big family. God narrows the family relations down to brothers and sisters when he calls us children. If someone needs help this steamy summer, remember, “Be nice to your sister.”

You may contact Cathy at

1 comment:

  1. How wonderful that 19 out of 20 people (or cousins) would offer understanding. That's 95%!

    Unfortunately, the one who doesn't makes just as big an impression.