Just an ordinary Thursday
It’s usually Thursday morning. I know I’m probably going to be fighting the crowds from the Bob Hope Village retirement housing (aka The Village People), delivered by the busload. I know that cranky lady is probably going to be working the meat case and perfecting her customer non-service. I know the deli workers will be moving like molasses in February, because that’s just how they roll. At least most if the time they roll that way with a smile.
But sometimes if I keep the eyes and ears of my heart open and tuned, I’ll come across something new. Such was the case yesterday.
I had finished filling my cart and was making my way to the checkout. I got into line and discovered that all the lanes were full. Not only full, but very full, and the one closest to the front of the line was actually blocking access to the rest of the lanes. Then I noticed that someone had taken down one of the dividers they use to funnel people into line, and as I scanned the checkouts once more, I noted that there actually was an available lane.. Funny…I hadn’t seen that one moments before. I backed up, went through the hole created by the divider, and headed towards that lane. I arrived there to discover that not only was it available, it was completely empty.
At this point my senses were on full alert. Something was up. All the other lanes were full with people waiting in line to unload their groceries onto the belt, and this one was empty? Hmm.
I glanced at the cashier and recognized her as one of the regulars. She’d totaled my groceries many times before. But even at a quick glance I could tell something wasn’t right. She didn’t look bad. It’s just that I am accustomed to a certain lightness and liveliness coming from her, and today it just wasn’t there. She wasn’t unkind or unfriendly in any way, but I could feel the heaviness on her.
I began to unload my groceries and she dutifully scanned them. I wanted to say something but wasn’t sure how to start the conversation since this wasn’t someone with whom I have a relationship. Finally I decided to just dive in.
“Are you ok?” I asked. “You don’t seem your normally chipper self.”
She didn’t really look up from her work. “I’m not feeling very well.” She paused a moment and then blurted: “And my husband is demanding I quit my job.” She practically choked out the last sentence.
“And you don’t want to.”
She shook her head as she glanced at me quickly and then busied herself with her work again.
She went on to say that she hoped that her employers would grant her a leave of absence and that maybe that would be enough to pacify her husband.
“So we’ll pray that you receive favor from your employers and that they’ll gladly extend a leave of absence to you.” And I then went on, doing exactly that, talking to God as if He were standing right there (because He was) and simply speaking a couple of sentences of petition and blessing over her.
She paused, blinked, and then slowly looked at me with her eyes wide open, as if she were noticing for the first time who was standing in front of her register. I watched the realization dawn on her that she was speaking to a sister, and that I would understand things she didn’t feel she could say to most people. Relief flooded her worried eyes.
With a deep breath, she asked me to pray for something else and then told me her pastor’s take on the situation. I listened to her as someone else began loading the grocery belt behind me. We only had seconds left. I assured her that God’s got this and that I would be praying for her. She thanked me several times as I gathered my purse and coupon notebook and turned to follow the bagger out the door.
And just like that, the encounter was over.
It didn’t require extra time. It didn’t require money. It didn’t require getting all weird and making strange pronouncements in King James English. It just required noticing. And then saying something. And then praying a few sentences in a very conversational tone.
I don’t know if I’ll ever see her again. After years of five-minute encounters, it’s possible that she will move into a new season of her life and no longer be a potential part of my Thursday morning routine. If so, I’m glad my last interaction with her let her know she was seen and worthy of stopping and listening and caring. She was worthy of love.
Today, or maybe tomorrow, someone who needs to be seen and carried to heaven’s ears will cross your path. Are you willing to bring the kingdom to that spot in that very moment? Do you believe it would be worth the risk?
It’s in your hands.