Sal, my not so pal

I have this regular caller to the complaint line I answer on a daily basis. He’s what I like to call a “frequent flyer” or in this case, a frequent complainer. He’s one of those people that believes it’s him against the world and everything is a battle. Well, that’s my very limited view of him. For today’s purpose, I’ll call him “Sal.”

Sal is an older white man filled with anger, bitterness and extreme racist views.

My first call with Sal was one with him yelling and whining about a change the company had made and it didn’t meet with his satisfaction. The change was a small one but that didn’t matter. He demanded the change not occur that we continue with the old way. I apologized to him but the change was going to take place – it was written in stone, so to speak – and no amount of complaining on his part would change it. Oh, he did not like that! He does what all stubborn people do when they’re told something they don’t like – demanded to speak to a supervisor. When I refused to transfer him because, I told him, the answer would be the same as what I gave him, he launched into a racist-tinged tirade and I had to tell him if he didn’t stop I would disconnect the call. Usually when I tell someone that, I get one of two reactions – the person stops how they’re speaking and become a regular human again or, as it was with Sal, they continue on in their expletive- or racist-filled speeches. When I warned him again, he hung up on me.

The next day, dear Sal called again. After I said my greeting – the first words out of his mouth were, “Oh, it’s you. You’re not worth anything.” I was somewhat taken aback – a customer hasn’t told me something that potentially hurtful in a long time (or, maybe they have and I’ve just gotten used to it). I said the first thing that came to my mind – and with a definite sarcastic tone in my voice, I said, “Well, thank you for the compliment.”

He said it wasn’t a compliment and launched headlong into his next complaint. When he came up for air, I asked him in a very snarky tone, “Well, since you think I’m worthless, do even want me to bother taking this complaint?” Sal said he did and he continued on with his b*tch-fest. When he was finally done and hung up, I was quite upset at what he said to me. I called my supervisor to vent – and that’s when she told me how badly he treats all the representatives he talks to.

Afterward, I asked God to bless Sal. That’s all I could manage as wounded as I was.

The next time Sal called he was his usual mean and angry self but by then I had spent several days praying about the situation and about him so I felt better equipped to handled his hatred. After he finished berating me he started in on other employees – nothing directly racial this time but plenty of innuendos. As I listened to him I thought about how hurt Sal is. The wound he inflicted on me is nothing compared to the wounds he must be carrying around. He is angry, bitter, vengeful, full of hatred and in extreme pain; but above all, he is afraid. Fear rules his life and he strikes out at anything and everything in his path.

Now that I have that greater understanding of Sal, I am better able to pray for him. His is afraid and hurting and knows no other way to be.

It is then incumbent upon me to treat him with kindness instead of snarkiness; to be patient with him without letting him abuse me; and to pray for him, blessing him and not cursing him.

Its’ hard to bless someone when they’ve told you your worthless. But bless Sal I must – for the good of his soul and mine. There but for the grace and love of God go I.

Let Love be without lies. Avoid what is evil. Cling to what is good.

Be kind to one another, and giving preference to one another, continuing this through your work, and be excited by serving the Lord.

Rejoice in hope, patient during troubled times, praying always.

Take care of the needs of others.

And bless those who are cruel to you; bless them, pray for them, but do not curse them.
Romans 12:9-14, as interpreted by Sabina after the NKJV


His love is food for my soul

And I replied:
Even though I complain bitterly that God’s hand weighs heavily upon me
I wish I knew where He was – I would go to Him and complain to Him
About all the turmoil He is putting me through.
And maybe I would then be able to understand why God does these things to me.

Would He strike me down? I don’t think so.
God is a merciful God and
If a righteous woman were to present her case before Him He would show mercy.

But I look to the east and He is not there;
I look to the west and He is not there either.
When He is at work in the north, I can’t see Him
And when He is at work in the south, I can’t find Him.

But I am comforted in knowing that
He knows the path that I walk and
I will come through these trials and tribulations,
Refined as pure gold, cleansed of all the filth of my soul.

In spite of everything,
I have tried to keep to His way by closely following His footsteps.
I have not rebelled against His word
And I treasure His love as food for my soul.

Job 23:1-12, as interpreted by Sabina after the NKJV


Do you have a mantra – a saying or prayer you repeat over and over again while under times of extreme duress? (“O God O God O God” doesn’t really count!)

Mine is Psalm 23 and I use it most frequently when going to the dentist when he is jabbing a 10-inch needle into my gums.

Yesterday I went to the doctor – another occasion to use my mantra! I wasn’t seeing my usual one, Dr. S, because she wasn’t available for a couple of weeks. Instead I saw a nice older man, Dr. M, who seemed knowledgeable and had a wonderful bedside manner…until…

I was there because it was time for my semi-annual cortisone injections in my knees. I tend to forget about my knees and how bad they are until the cortisone wears off. And then it’s a rapid descent from a very manageable 2-3 pain level to an 8-9-10 pain level. For those who don’t know, level 10 is writhing on the floor (or in bed) in pure pain and nothing is sending it away.

By this time, I can barely walk and am in level 8-9 pain 24-7, so I was willing to see any doctor with a needle-in-hand.

So, back to mantras—I was laying back on the table while Dr. M was busy prepping his instruments of torture – 3-foot-long needles filled with much-needed relief.

With Dr. S, I am jabbering so much by this time – nonsense really – that she injects me before I know it and I’m done. With Dr. M, I’m nervous and quiet – so I start casting about for my mantra—

What is it again?Now I lay me down to sleepNo! I don’t want to pray about death!Oh! there it isThe Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want… Dr. M is approaching me with giant needle in hand, an evil look in his eye and a sneer of perverse pleasure on his face… The Lord is my Shepherd! The Lord is my Shepherd!… Ah! I feel the needle go in, disperse its pleasure palace of fire and he’s done….

Wait! It’s not over!The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want… the panic rises in my heart and throat and threatens to choke out the mantra from my head… He approaches… all I can say is The Lord is my Shepherd, the Lord is my Shepherd, the Lord is my… the needle! 3-feet of torture! It slides into my knee – this fire is worse than the last one – then quickly subsides into numbness… The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want….

Dr. M is done, and the liquid bliss is already working its way into my nerve endings and the pain level decreases rapidly to level 4-5 (I can understand becoming addicted to pain killers…the brief elation between levels 10 and 4 is true ecstasy.) But, wait – not wanting to leave me in my euphoric bliss, he sends me to the vampires below in their lair to abscond with 2 vials of blood (it is 4:00 pm, Happy Hour, don’t you know).

Did my mantra work? Oh, yes. Were I not concentrating on Psalm 23 – what I could remember of it in the midst of stress and turmoil – my heart would have exploded from panic.

Thank you, Lord, for your Grace and Mercy and the fine physicians and creators of medicine who make my life quite a bit more pain free.

One last word – you may ask, ‘why don’t you get your knees replaced?’ A question Dr. S asks me at least twice a year. My response is: ‘What!? And have two God-created body parts replaced by man-made parts? I don’t think so! Not yet—I’m not ready. When I had my thyroid and gall bladder slashed from my body I went through a spiritual trauma of sorts. Part of my body, my spirit, two God-created parts of me ripped from my body – no, I can’t – not yet. I can’t even begin to handle my knees being taken from me for earth-bound-forever.

Prayers and blessings to all those who have gone before and had body parts removed and/or replaced. You are braver than I am. And I bless you, and pray that God keeps you and makes His face to shine upon you in all of your going out and your coming in, that your days may be long upon this earth and you spend eternity with the One Who truly loves and cares for you.

For now, I will endure semi-annual torture sessions in favor of a bone-saw and titanium screws. And rely on my mantra (and God) to see me through.

Psalm 23

The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures
He leads me beside the still waters
He restores my soul;
He leads me into paths of righteousness for His Name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death
I will fear no evil
For You are with me
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare me a table before me in the presence of my enemies
You anoint my head with oil
My cup runs over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the House of the Lord