Yoder’s Country Cupboard is a local store that is tucked into the back of Vernon Yoder’s property. Eight years ago, Vernon, his wife, and four daughters had moved from Ohio to western New York to join an expanding Amish community. The store quickly established itself and developed a reputation for customer service. It provided a place for locals to buy deli meat, cheese, bulk foods, spices, candy, and more. Campers from Lake Ontario, five miles away, find it a convenient place to restock their food supply.
One day, a middle-aged woman stomped into Yoder’s Country Cupboard and slapped a glass jar of dill spears down on the checkout counter. “These pickles are awful,” she said in a loud voice. “They’re all mushy. I want my money back.”
Vernon Yoder picked up the jar of pickles. It wasn’t a brand of pickles he carried at the store. “Sure, we can give you your money back, but it might interest you to know that we never sold that type of pickles.”
“Oh, I got them here all right.” The woman strode to the cooler. “Right here on this shelf.” Not seeing any other jars with that brand label, she added, “Must be you’re sold out of them right now.”
Slightly red-faced, the woman returned to the checkout counter with her palm splayed open, waiting for her refund. Rachel, the young woman who was working the cash register, looked at Vernon, eyebrows raised in a question. Vernon glanced at the price sticker: $4.26. He gave a quick nod and Rachel handed over the money.
“Thanks.” The woman headed out the door, flip-flops thwacking on the tile.
It’s easy to think of all the reasons Vernon shouldn’t have given the woman her money. But that’s not the way Vernon Yoder or most Amish would view the situation. To Vernon, giving $4.26 to the customer was a small price to pay for keeping the peace. He believed that turning the other cheek to a customer paved the way for reconciliation, and he was known as a man who would go the second mile for his customers. By not responding in a defensive way, he could remain on friendly terms with such a customer in the future. And that became evident with the pickle jar lady.
The following day, the woman in flip-flops came back into Yoder’s Country Cupboard. “It all came back to me,” she said with a sheepish look. “I got those pickles at Kirby’s Farm Market. Not here.” She flipped a five-dollar bill onto the counter and said, “I’m very sorry.”
REFLECTIONS ON PEACEMAKING
Much of the success of stores like Yoder’s Country Cupboard has to do with the way the shop owners provide service to their customers. Each customer is considered to be a long-term relationship. “The discretion of a man deferreth his anger; and it is his glory to pass over a transgression” (Prov. 19:11 KJV). What changes when you start thinking of the people who come across your path as long-term relationships?
“Working toward peaceful solutions to conflict isn’t our natural human response,” writes Ken Sande in Resolving Everyday Conflict. “Some people see conflict as a hazard that threatens to sweep them off their feet and leave them bruised and hurting, so they react by making every attempt to escape the situation. Others see conflict as an obstacle to be conquered quickly and completely, even if they hurt others in the process.” What is your usual response to conflict—escape or attack? Most of us jump between the extremes.
Think of a time you responded defensively to someone who wronged you. And then think of a time when you showed grace. What were the consequences to the relationships for each response? Which response brought a healthy and restored relationship?