Good morning!! I hope everyone enjoyed a meaningful and blessed Christmas Day yesterday!! Being able to spend Christmas with my mom and sisters down in South Carolina means the world to me, and I hope all of you had family and friends to share your day with as well.
Welcome!! Herzlich Willkommen!! Benvenuto!!
Last month, my husband Miyuki and I traveled to Europe together. While he had traveled there many times for work purposes, I had never seen any part of Europe. It has been a dream of mine to see Florence, Italy, since I was about 21 years old. I took an Art Appreciation class in college, and the Renaissance period fascinated me. It had always seemed to me that Florence was THE place to see the works of Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Sandro Botticelli, and Caravaggio, etc., that I had learned to love and appreciate all those years ago.
It was with great excitement that I learned we would be going to Europe, only to have Miyuki tell me seconds later that we were flying in and out of Frankfurt, Germany. My first question was, "Exactly how far is that from Florence? Because you KNOW that Florence is the ONLY place in Europe that I've ever said I wanted to visit." So my wonderful husband set about planning a whirlwind trip that would take us through four countries in six days, but I would be seeing my beloved Florence, if just for two nights and one whole day! That day turned out to be magical, and I will never forget it!!
Of course that meant a LOT of traveling and interacting with many different people. We spent a night and half a day in Zurich, Switzerland, and the people there couldn't have been more helpful, welcoming, and just plain nice. The people we encountered in Italy were nice as well, the notable exception being the pickpocket who tried to relieve Miyuki of his wallet on a crowded city bus near the Duomo. Thankfully he felt the movement and grabbed the man's hand just in time to save the wallet! Otherwise, the Italian people we interacted with were just as nice as the Swiss and Austrians we met, they just didn't know how to drive properly!! But that's a story for a different time!
I wish I could say the same thing about all the German people we met. But maybe it was just the German folks who work for Hertz. Our rental car had a tire blow out on the autobahn on the first day of our trip as we were driving to Zurich. Thankfully we didn't wreck and we came up on a rest area and could pull over almost as soon as we realized what had happened. Miyuki put on the temporary spare and we called the 24-hour emergency number. After finally making them understand where we were and what our problem was, they told us to drive to a tire store in the next decent sized city and spelled out the address using the NATO phonetic alphabet code of Alfa, Bravo, Charlie, etc. I could easily write the address down that way, and after loading it into the gps, we were on our way. What we weren't really aware of was that nobody at Hertz bothered to call this tire store on our behalf to see if they had the tire we needed in stock. And guess what, after a difficult time driving in an unfamiliar foreign city in the dark, they didn't! So my husband called Hertz again and had the store owner speak to him.They said they'd be back in touch with further instructions. Miyuki decided to use the restroom at this point, so of course that's when Hertz called back. I had to answer the call and this time it's a different person telling me that we would have to drive to a Hertz location and get a different vehicle. I had him on speaker phone because, as many of you know, I wear hearing aids and it's easier for me to hear conversations that way. Also, I'm hurriedly trying to find a sheet of paper to write another address on. So this guy starts saying the street address, German words of course, and when he starts spelling them, he is saying the letters instead of using the code like the other guy did, and I don't know how to tell him to spell it the different way. So every "b" sounded like "p" and "z" sounded like "c." You get the picture. The guy was getting frustrated with me and actually started yelling letters at me, and then shouting "NO!" if I misunderstood, in front of everyone in the tire store who is within earshot of this speakerphone conversation. I was embarrassed and the already stressful situation became almost unbearable. If I could have zapped myself back to Mason at that point, I would have!
We left the tire store hoping we had the address right and hoping we arrived at Hertz before it closed for the night. We made it in time, but in exchange for our Volvo XC60, we were given what basically was a Ford commercial van with a stick shift and no gps. It was the only vehicle they had available on the lot. As we drove away, my husband called Hertz's 24-hour number again to ask if we could switch the commercial van for something more suitable for tourists at the Stuttgart Airport. They guy said yes and that he'd arrange it. We drove to the airport rental return and say we're exchanging the vehicle. We left the van there and went into the airport to the Hertz counter to find out where to pick up our THIRD vehicle of the day. The man typed in our name, then said there is no record of a car waiting for us, that our contract had just been terminated when we returned the van, and that there was absolutely nothing he could do for us. Miyuki called the 24-hour people again and put them on with the man at the counter while I walked away to go sit down and pray.
My prayers were answered in less than an hour. The man at the counter eventually started apologizing for all the troubles we had experienced that day and became helpful, rewriting the contract by hand, and getting us into a smaller minivan with a gps. It made all the difference in the world when he started being helpful and a part of the solution, instead of being someone whose shift was almost over and didn't want to be bothered with a complication at the end of the day. Maybe the 24-hour guy who yelled at me yelled at the counter guy as well to fix the mess, but I like to think it was God giving him a nudge and telling him that he could be welcoming and helpful just as easy as he could be annoyed and unaccommodating. He had a job to do and he eventually chose kindness to get him through the rest of his night, and we were grateful for that.
I love the quote from the book, Wonder, by R.J. Palacio, that I've seen more and more of since the movie came out. "When given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind." Oh, if the world held onto that idea, what a more wonderful place it might be. It would not have helped our tire being blown out, but it certainly would have made an extremely stressful time seem more bearable.. Choosing to be intentional with showing love and kindness is what I want for our Welcoming Team here at Mason UMC, and I hope that's what people feel when they come into our building or interact with us on the street.