I celebrated another birthday milestone this week.  Hubby took me out to eat at one of my favorite seafood restaurants. I like it because it usually has a nice quiet family environment. Notice I said “usually.” This particular evening I thought we were part of the reality TV program“What Would You Do?”  You know, that program where actors come in to everyday places, be it a restaurant, grocery store or park, and portray some extreme behavior to see how folks will react?  Here is what happened to us …

We were sitting there quietly eating our dinner when the hostess seats a couple in the booth behind me. I take no notice of them and continue eating my meal, oblivious to their actions behind me. I notice other patrons begin staring in our direction. My husband, in a very quiet voice makes the comment, “They should go get a room if they are going to act like that.” Seems the couple was displaying…shall we say…too much of an intimate display of affection in public. Soon I hear the man begin to cry. The woman, speaking softly, asks if he would like to leave.  It sounds as if she’s speaking to a child. I tell my husband he must be mistaken in what he saw. The man continues to weep. The woman continues to try to soothe him. Over and over she asks if he would like to leave. This goes on for about 10 – 15 minutes. She answers a phone call and says, “I can’t. He’s not in a good way right now.”  Then I get a shock. He begins to threaten bodily harm, to himself and her when they leave!  She continues to speak quietly to him and tells him to stay seated as she goes to ask for “to go boxes.” The man gets louder and louder. I scoot up as far as I can to my table hoping to get out of arms reach. They finally get up. As they leave, other patrons near us comment on their behavior. My husband tells me he (my husband) kept his hand on his dinner knife the entire time the couple was behind me,  should he need to protect me. I have to admit I kept looking at my knife, wondering how much harm it could cause should the man behind me decide he wanted to start attacking someone.

We finish our meal and go to the hostess station to pay on our way out. The couple who were sitting behind me are still standing at the hostess station, continuing with their  “enamored displays.”  Seems they have asked the hostess to call a cab for them and they are waiting for its arrival.  We decide to take a seat in the waiting area for payment a few feet away from them. Another couple is sitting across from us in the waiting area for dining. We exchange pleasantries and chuckle about a comment one of us just made. The man that was threatening bodily harm goes ballistic at the other gentleman who is waiting to be seated, threatening to attack him. He insisted that we are laughing and talking about him. Thank goodness there was a half wall between them. I have never heard such foul language and obscenities. He is now screaming at the top of his lungs at the other gentleman. A little old waitress, looks to be maybe 70 years old, comes and tries to get the enamored couple to leave immediately. He’s not having it. The woman with him continues to speak quietly to him. He is totally ignoring her and getting more volatile. At this point my husband nonchalantly pulls out his cell phone, begins dialing 911 and hands me the phone. While the waitress has the man’s attention, we quietly get up and walk to the back dining room we just left. Standing at one of the windows we see the couple run out and down the street. The man pushes the women. The 911 dispatcher asks for the description and location. I give it along with the scene we just witnessed outside. Needless to say the entire restaurant is upset.

We finally pay for our meal. The hostess tells us that the waitress also called 911 and apologizes for the previous couples behavior. We get in our car and then I start shaking like a leaf in a March wind!

All sorts of “what-ifs” began to run through my mind. I began to wonder if we reacted correctly. Should we have offered to help the woman with the distraught man? Should we have ignored the behavior in the dining room, or quietly alerted the restaurant management about his threats? Could they or would they have called for assistance at that time? Would it have helped the woman deter his later violence? I wondered why she didn’t call the cab on her cell phone instead of asking the hostess to call. I wondered why she didn’t call for help when she left her table to get the to-go boxes. I wonder, I wonder…

I kept thinking about how the woman continued to speak quietly to him.

You know, the Bible speaks quite a bit about knowing when to speak and when to keep silent. In Ecclesiastes 3:7 it says there is

“A time to keep silent, and a time to speak.”

Sometimes it’s hard to know when to be quiet, but it can be a good virtue to have. The Bible commends those who are able to keep the peace and listen, however, discourages being quiet due to timidness. There are times when one needs to speak out for it can bring about good things. It’s hard to find that balance. Here are some verses that may help find a balance.

Proverbs 17:27-28 (VOICE) – 27 Those with knowledge know when to be quiet,    and those with understanding know how to remain calm.28 Even a fool who keeps quiet is considered wise, for when he keeps his mouth shut, he appears clever.

2 Corinthians 10:1-2 (NIV) – “By the humility and gentleness of Christ, I appeal to you—I, Paul, who am “timid” when face to face with you, but “bold” toward you when away! I beg you that when I come I may not have to be as bold as I expect to be toward some people who think that we live by the standards of this world.”

James 1:19 (NIV) -” 19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,…”

1 Peter 3:13-15 (NIV) – “13 Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? 14 But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.” 15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…”

This was certainly a birthday celebration I won’t soon forget! Even in the craziness Grace whispered, reminding me the importance of when to speak and when to keep quiet.

What would you have done?

Prayer: Father God, how frightening it can be when we don’t know how to react to a situation or a person’s imbalanced behavior. Father God, I continue to lift the man and woman in prayer to you. Protect them. Help them find the assistance needed. Father, thank you for giving us boldness to act or speak when needed, and the wisdom to be quiet as well. May we always be a reflection of you. In Christ’s name. Amen

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