A few weeks ago, I was driving from Florida to South Carolina by way of Atlanta and found myself in need of a caffeine fix somewhere in rural Alabama.
Fortunately, I happened to be driving through a town with more than one stop light and some fast food options, so I walked into a popular coffee shop chain -- I won't name names, but its title boasts its O-shaped pastries can be dunked into coffee.
There wasn't a clerk in sight, and I was the only customer. Not wanting to be "that customer," the one who obnoxiously clears her throat to look for help, I stretched my legs and waited for a few minutes, figuring someone had to show up to the counter soon. However, the minutes ticked by, and I grew a little irritated. I needed caffeine, and besides, this long of a break could put me into Atlanta at rush hour. Finally, a clerk rushed to the register. "Now what did you say you wanted, ma'am?" she asked, ready to put in the order.
Faith in humanity restored, I smiled and said, "A small coffee, please."
Only she wasn't taking my order. She was taking an order being shouted into her earpiece, from the drive-thru. Another clerk arrived at the counter and, fool that I am, I once again asked for a small coffee -- only to be given an annoyed look because this clerk, too, was taking a drive-thru order. Completing the orders, they walked away, and I remained at the counter, flustered.
At this point, I admitted defeat and walked out the door empty-handed and humiliated. I had been standing in front of people who had ignored me, which was far more offensive than the lack of caffeine in my cupholder.
I do not like to be ignored.
Stewing in my car, I heard the almost audible question from God, which snapped me out of my indignant funk: "Imagine how I feel?"
Ten minutes of being ignored in a coffee shop and I was furious, while I can go 10 hours -- or, admittedly, 10 days -- without offering sincere attention to God. That very day, in fact, I had been in such a hurry to get packed up and on the road, I had skipped my morning prayers and had yet to actually pray the rosary swinging from my rearview mirror. I had driven over the water and into a magnificent sunrise and instead of pausing to thank God for the day, I had been yakking on my cellphone, confirming dinner plans for that evening.
Tomorrow is the first Sunday of Advent -- the four weeks before Christmas when we are challenged to "share in the long preparation for the Savior's first coming" and renew our "ardent desire for his second coming" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 524).
It is ironic that December -- when we can't walk more than a few steps without seeing some reminder of the birth of Christ -- can be a time when we get so busy we neglect to actually talk to the person we're celebrating.
Much like I was ignored for the drive-thru customers at the cafè, we can brush God aside in our flurry of pageants, shopping and celebrating.
Resolve -- before the lists get too long and the days too short -- to reflect that Christ has come and will return. We don't know when, but when we make it a habit to acknowledge his presence in our lives through prayer, reflection and charity, we'll be ready for both the celebration of Christmas and eternal life.