I have been wanting to write about this for a few weeks, but have held off until now. Working for my local food store, I come in contact with a variety of different people. I love talking to them. Not all admittedly. Sometimes the regular troublemakers come in to make my shift that little less enjoyable. However, within the job that I do I get to talk to people of all ages, backgrounds, walks of life. It’s amazing. One customer took a 10 year gap year overseas before commencing a course in Marine Biology at uni. Another customer was telling me about his decade of serving the army and his fond memories with his comrades getting shot at and dodging a bomb. And a female security guard at the Olympic Games paid me a visit to.
On a couple of occasions I have felt prompted to ask if they went to a church and on both times, they had admitted to having faith and being part of a church. Every time we speak now, we can talk about our faith which is amazing. One time, a woman felt led to see if I was a Christian, and she went to a local church and we swapped numbers that same shift! It’s nice to know that the Spirit is moving among God’s people 🙂 It is not because I am psychic or because I am trying desperately to talk to every customer about their faith (would be nice, but not possible in the job!). It is only when I feel led and there is an opportunity to share. Inviting someone to church is another way I have felt led – to just reach out and offer them friendship.
It is great building a rapport with individuals. Getting to know them over a period of months just through serving them is quite amazing. And I get to see glimpses into their lives every time – whether they are having a great day, a hard day, a drunk day… whatever it is, I can see it first hand. That can also be quite challenging as I found out a couple of shifts ago. A man came to my checkout; stumbling, calling me sir without looking at me, laughing to himself. He was saying random things, but did not appear to be drunk – more hysterical in places… I scanned through 2 bottles of wine. And he started telling me about how a nurse he had just spoken to in the store could not care less about what he was telling her. “I found out I have cancer today”, he said. Smiling, but fighting back tears. “But I am strong!! I go to work every day! I have never even had my tonsils out! Why? I’m going to go home now. Get drunk!”
It pulled at my heart. “I know what you’re going through. I have had cancer.”
“What?” he looked at me, then looked at the floor.
“I was diagnosed when I was 19. There is hope for you.” He was happy at my news but then kept repeating the news of his condition to himself incredulously. He was about to leave the shop, when I called my supervisor and went after him. I asked him his name and told him that I would pray for him and that I was a Christian. It turns out that he was a Christian too and attended a church close by. He was fighting back tears. He told me some of his family had died when he was young and the rest were overseas. He clasped his head in his hands and said “I wish you hadn’t given these to me”. He held up the bottles of wine. I told him I could give him a full refund and tried to distract him with other ways to speak about his condition such as sharing it with his church family. He said he worked so much so did not get the time to go often. But he saw them as family. He said he spoke to God every morning and knows that God is his strength, but that he himself was strong. My heart went out for him. On a personal level I could relate perfectly to how he was feeling – well, not perfectly, because we all handle difficult news differently. But I could relate to him more than I think we both realised.
“I don’t understand how a nurse can just sweep it to one side, and the local girl from the shop can care so much”, he said, still fighting back tears. It was difficult to hear. He gave me a hug and smiled and I said if he needed to chat I would be there. I went back into the store and just burst into tears. I didn’t realise the impact that man would have on me. It made me think a lot about suffering and as Christians where our hope should be – Jesus. But it made me think about when I was diagnosed and the journey of the unknown that I would have to go through. Also, it made me think about how serving in the mundane aspects of life can provide an opportunity to talk about Jesus to others. A God that is not distant but feels our pain – afterall, he died for us on that Cross, taking on all our sin, shame and pain upon himself. It emphasised my desire to serve people always and to be open to how God can use me in these circumstances. I remember this man and pray for him – I asked God there and then to watch over him as he grappled with his illness.
Through the everyday activities of life we encounter so many people. It is an opportunity to love them by speaking to them, helping them with their shopping, wishing them well and smiling or sometimes crying with those that are hurting. As Christians, we are called to love the Lord and to love our neighbours and by knowing and loving Jesus, we can love the Father and we can love our neighbours. By loving our neighbours, we are loving the Lord.
Although I may find customers frustrating at the best of time, it is an amazing opportunity to love them and love God. It is great to serve, just as Jesus served. Putting my needs after the needs of others.
The Parable of the Good Samaritan
25And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” 28And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”
29But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35And the next day he took out two denariic and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’36Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”