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A Slice Of Life To Go is an online Christian blog written by Todd Thompson. It encourages people to see the beauty in ordinary moments and to know God’s unconditional, unfailing love in everyday life.

In The Heat Of The Moment

April 11th, 2002

It was a family vacation during the summer of my 8th grade year. My grandparents were taking the trip with us to Ohio and West Virginia to visit distant relatives.

At the end of a long day of driving, we spotted a motel just outside a tiny town in Indiana. One of those small, 30-room Mom and Pop operated lodges with the orange neon sign that flickers like a bug zapper. It was this or drive another 50 miles. We stopped and checked in.

Grandpa and Grandma had their own room and we had ours. It was a nasty hot and humid night. One of those “90/90” days; 90 degrees and 90% humidity. A Midwestern summer night that sits on you like a sweaty 300-pound wrestler pinning you to the mat. The only reason to come outside tonight would be to slide quarters into the Coke machine and pull out icy cold bottles of The Real Thing.

Sometime around midnight, the air conditioner in our room died. It got real hot real fast. Being the sturdy Iowa farm family that we were, we tried to make the best of it and not let it bother us. But it became unbearable. Opening the windows just let more heat in. My Dad said, “Todd, run over to the motel office, tell them the AC is out and that we need a different room.” That sounded like a fantastic idea to me.

I stood outside the glass window with the slotted circular aluminum talk-through vent and rang the bell for the manager. It was after midnight but it felt like high noon. The air, oppressive and heavy, was almost too thick to breathe. The manager emerged from that back room that all motel offices have, the room with the couch and the TV blaring in the background. I explained our plight, the manager said “no problem” and left to get the key for a different room.

Just then a four-door sedan drove up. A young couple got out of the car and walked toward the office window where I was standing. She was holding a fussy, squirming baby who was doing everything but sleeping. They had that exhausted “we’ve been driving forever” look.

They got to the window just as the manager came back with the key. Before he could finish with me the husband blurted out, “We need a room”, pointing to the orange neon “vacancy” sign. He reached in his pocket for his wallet when the manager said, “I’d like to help but there’s only one room left. This boy’s taking it because the air conditioner’s out in his room.”

He dropped the key into that little metal dip tray under the window. It was attached to the oblong plastic motel key rings with the room number in silver and “If found, please drop in any mailbox. Return postage guaranteed” on the other side. I looked at the key and I looked at the couple. Whatever energy they had when they drove in was gone. The wife bounced the baby in her arms. She was biting her lip, doing the “I’m the mom, gotta be strong” thing. But her eyes were exhausted. They turned around and headed back to their car.

I said out loud, “It’s ok. They can have the room.” Six eyes stared at me. The husband looked confused. The wife looked like she was going to cry. The manager looked at me like I was nuts, then shrugged before grabbing a registration form.

Walking back across the parking lot I heard the corporate hum of fully functioning air conditioners. Arriving at the door of the sauna that was our family’s room, I realized my decision created some implications. I twisted the knob and walked in.

“Well?”

“Um…Dad, uh,…”

“Well, did they have another room?”

“Uh, yeah. They did. But this family came in and they were…and…I said they could have it.”

“You what???!!! What the…how could…it’s so hot in here!”

“But Dad, I thought it was the right thing to do!”

My Dad stopped talking. In retrospect, I think he realized that the sweaty miserable night he was going to endure was a direct result of how he and my Mom had raised me. After a moment he said, “That’s ok. Don’t worry about it. We’ll get up and leave early in the morning.”

I didn’t sleep that night. None of us did. It was too hot. But I remember trying to imagine how happy I hoped that young family was in their cool room.

I’m still a rookie parent. 18 months of experience qualifies me as an expert diaper changer, formula fixer and car seat clipper. That’s all. It’s uphill the rest of the way. Parenting gets more difficult by the day. I’m old enough to know that I don’t have a clue how challenging it will become. I wonder about my kids. What will they learn from me? How much of what they learn will I deliberately teach them? How much will they learn by observing the way I act and behave? It’s a sobering thought.

Somehow, my parents were able to teach their innately selfish child the lesson that there were other people on the planet besides himself. And that it’s a good idea to consider their needs as more important than my own. I don’t remember learning the lesson. I just remember saying, “That’s ok. They can have it.” to total strangers in a motel parking lot on a sweltering summer night in Indiana.

Whatever my parents did for me, I hope I can do for my kids. To take advantage of teachable moments today in hopes they will someday find themselves doing the right thing in the heat of the moment.

“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself. Look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” – Philippians 2:3-4