By Judy Brandon
Several months back, I had an appointment in town. I arrived about 30 minutes ahead of time really hoping to get in a bit early. The waiting room was not that large, but there were about 10 chairs.
After signing in at the desk, I turned to find a chair and saw one vacant chair on the north side of the office.
Next to me was a tall, lanky young man who was about 15. The youngest patient in the room, he wore a baseball cap and a shirt with a skull and crossbones on it. He was stretched out in his chair — his long legs, with feet sporting Nike athletic shoes, seemed to occupy half of the waiting room. Sitting with his arms folded and staring straight ahead, he seemed oblivious to what was going on around him.
I found my chair and began to grade some school papers to pass the time. Sitting alongside the teenage boy, I couldn’t help but notice what went on.
The woman next to the young man was, I surmised, his mother. Occasionally, she would say something to him, and if he responded it was a low mumble. Once she reached over to touch his arm, and he jerked it away.
In a few minutes, the office door opened, and a little woman on a walker, probably in her 80s, maneuvered her way into the waiting room. The woman accompanying her assisted her in and then left the little woman near the door to go to the desk to check her in.
When her companion returned to help her find a chair, she saw that there was no available seat. The teenage boy sat still, legs stretched out far into the space in front of him in the waiting room.
I waited a second in disbelief, and then echoes of my mother’s instructions from my childhood days came to me. Years ago, I was taught that if anyone older comes into a room, and there’s no place for that person to sit, it was only proper and polite to get up and offer that person your seat.
So when I saw that the young man was not going to budge, I did just that. I got up and offered the elderly woman with the walker my chair.
She started her slow trek over to my chair.
I thought surely the boy would at least move his extended legs so she could easily get by. I was mistaken.
He sat there, arms folded, staring straight ahead.
So to get to the chair I had given her, this little woman on a walker had to maneuver around the kid’s long legs so she could sit down. Never once did he move, or say, “Excuse me.” He just sat there.
As she was making her way around him, the young man mumbled just barely loud enough for me to hear: “Hurry up, old lady!”
I sat in disbelief. The elderly woman hadn’t heard him, but I could not believe his insensitivity. I was so stunned I couldn’t say anything. As if that was not enough, the boy’s mother just sat there. She didn’t reprimand him or help the little woman. She sat in silence.
As the elderly lady sat down, the nurse came out and called the young man for his appointment. He rose slowly and strolled arrogantly out of the waiting room.
One of the tragic signs of our day is the decline of virtue. It’s a basic selfishness toward others, a “me first” philosophy.
I find hope in thinking about teens I know who are remarkable young people.
I know some good examples of those in our church and some young ones that I have taught in school. I know Jesus’ words, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” is a timeless saying.
Perhaps we all, whether young or old, need to think more along those lines.
Judy Brandon is an instructor at Clovis Community College. Contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org