Recently while going to the bathroom in an airport, I noticed a wad of chewing gum in the urinal I was using. And it reminded me anew of how much I hate it when guys spit out their gum into any type of toilet. I think it’s one of the most inconsiderate things imaginable. I mean, you’re in a bathroom, there are trash bins everywhere – why not use one of them to get rid of your gum? Why would you subject another precious human being to the disgusting task of fishing out something you’ve CHEWED from a location that is already pretty gross as it is. It’s where people go Number One! You’re making their life more difficult, and I’m pretty sure their life is already quite difficult just being a janitor or custodian when you think of all the revolting things we have all seen in bathrooms. It just makes me furious at the person who does it, and very sad for the person who has to clean it up. And I wish there were public service announcements on television, in movie theaters, and on social media calling up men to a higher standard. Just like it’s wrong to spit out your gum on the sidewalk or street where the rest of us might step in it, it’s wrong to spit it out in the urinal!
I brought this up at our couples’ small group, and everyone agreed with me. My passionate plea for some common-sense restroom etiquette was heard loud and clear, and I felt validated and relieved, as if I had done my part. But then two days later, I was in a bathroom on my university’s campus, and I looked down and saw a chewed-up piece of gum in the urinal I was using. It actually caught me – it took my breath away for a second. And I realized that a hard decision had just presented itself. I could do what I’ve always done – just to internally rage at the gum-spitter and feel sorry for the gum-cleaner, and move on. Or, I could do something different.
At this moment I remembered something I’d recently read in a book by David Jeremiah: an interesting definition of “integrity” from the Oxford Dictionary, which referred to it as “the state of being whole and undivided.” That really resonated with me because when my mind and heart and body are not on the same page, and doing different things, I feel really out of sorts and know that something is wrong. And often, our heart or our mind is urging us to do something…but we make excuses or allow societal pressures or fear or nerves to talk us out of it. However, when I follow through and do what I know I should do (and what is the right thing to do by God’s standards), all parts of me are operating in synchronicity. In unison.
And that’s actually how we’re always supposed to be.
That is a life of integrity.
And so I flushed the urinal, went over to the paper towel dispenser, grabbed a copious amount of paper towels, fished out the chewing gum, and threw it away. And then I washed my hands with a lot of soap and water.
I was proud of myself, and I still am. And I am not sharing this with you so that you’ll think I’m a saint, but only so that it inspires you similarly to make unconventional decisions if you know it’s the right thing to do. So often, we don’t. So often, I don’t. But I want to. I want to seize every opportunity to show God that I care more about others than myself. Especially when it is something that He seems to have put on my heart for a reason (as He did with this incident, occurring only a couple days after I had publicly declared my righteous disdain for it). With any of His promptings, I just want to be obedient. I just want to be found faithful – in the small things and in the big things. And I don’t want to be someone who only complains about what I see around me – laziness, injustice, intolerance, messes. I want to be someone who does something about it. Something. Anything.
There is a great verse in Proverbs which says, “do not withhold good from those who deserve it when it is in your power to act.” I love that. I am kind of done with blessing people who bless me back (or have the ability to return the favor or pay me back in any way). I have been keen in recent years to level up in my Christian walk and always look for opportunities to bless others who will never know about it or could never do anything in return. My gum-removal action will never be known by the custodian who takes care of that campus bathroom, but I’m really happy to have saved him or her even a moment of annoyance, frustration, or dejection from seeing it. I’ve cleaned urinals before, but even if I never had, I still want to look for opportunities to make the lives of others easier. Life is brutal, and we’re all fighting some kind of battle, and we all need all the help we can get.
That’s really what it comes down to. Even though we can’t stop to do every good deed and help every single needy person who comes along our way, I am convinced that each of us can do more on a daily basis.
Let us live others-focused instead of self-focused, and find joy in making God-honoring decisions that reflect integrity instead of passivity and ambivalence.
And let our hearts be stirred beyond mere words and towards real action, more and more and more.
Your blog about gum in the urinal speaks to me at the core Sameer and I thank you.
Many years ago, while jogging I was disgusted to see so many cigarette butts, cups, beer bottles and cans, candy wrappers, and other disgusting trash scattered on the road-side. Then one Sunday morning as I engaged in my weekly telephone call with my sister in Massachusetts, I felt God nudging me…….to grab a big trash bag and walk, pick and clean the roadways while talking to my sister. So for over three years now, every Sunday morning I look forward to my “Sistah Trash Talk Hour”. Although I am doing it NOT for the recognition but more to calm the anger it creates within me to see the trash and to follow God’s leadings, have been amazed how many people stop to thank me and vow to pitch in to do their part. I have also noticed that by keeping the trash to a minimum by doing this weekly, it has almost (not quite yet) created a norm and the roadside is getting a lot less garbage dumped.
Funny that males are prone to spitting the gum in the urinal! I appreciate your story and actions so much because stepping on someone’s chewed gum is way up there on my no tolerance “what kind of person would do this” list.
Wow, Penny. Truly amazing. I absolutely know you wouldn’t do it for the recognition, but just because it’s the right thing to do. We always want to “Walk the Walk” – and we know that disorder attracts more disorder and so you are doing a world of good in preventing things from getting worse and attracting even poorer treatment of the roadways. I love what you shared. God is honored. And He is pleased with you. And that is all that matters in life!