Entertaining Grocery Store Cashiers

grocA little over two weeks ago we arrived at our new camphosting gig and found ourselves in a whole new world – woods and hills all around, fewer people than we were expecting during the week, no cell service at all, and the only hint of wifi accessible only on the porch of the campground office “trading post” (which makes life for us missionary telecommuting consultants pretty difficult). So, we quickly settled into a routine of staying around the campground during the weekends to meet as many people as possible and then venturing out several times during the week to surrounding cities where civilization exists for cell service, wifi, etc.. And sure enough, every weekend we met so many people, listened to their stories and shared our own; and during every weekday trip to the outside world we had encounters and came back with something new on our hearts and minds. For me, the new thing on my heart and mind for the past two weeks has been something about grocery store cashiers and all of the beautiful people in the service industry.

The thought first came when I walked into a couple of places I don’t normally frequent and started to feel an incredibly sour and unattractive look on my face. Normally I like to stay on the “safe” side of town, shopping only at certain places and eating only at certain restaurants (embarrassing, I know, but true); but for whatever reason my crew didn’t want to drive extra to get to those places this time, and we landed on a different side of town at a pizza joint that will remain unnamed. While I was happy to be out and about with my family and certainly wasn’t going to complain, my face was telling a different story. I could tell because my husband kept making cute little comments about it (and because he was totally fine – completely at ease making conversation with whoever, giving his best smile to anyone – he’s always been great at that.)  Then it hit me – a question flying into my heart without warning: Do you believe every single person on the planet really deserves a smile, a hello, a how are you? Do you believe every single person really deserves your time, attention, and sincere conversation? And if you do, then why does your face say something more like “I’m too good to be here”?

Immediately I thought about Hebrews 13:2, “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing so, some people have entertained angels without knowing it;” which for me brings to mind the television show “Undercover Boss.” Why is it that so many times our face changes when we figure out the person in front of us is actually important, actually rich, or actually an angel in disguise? Why can’t we give everyone the benefit of the doubt? Why can’t we give everyone the same hello, smile, handshake, and openness that we would if we were in the presence of someone “important”? What if the way we treat our waitresses, cable guys and grocery store cashiers is the way we’re treating Jesus? 

So, I asked God to help me change, and I set my mind to do it, and pretty quickly came my opportunity to practice. It was a day with an agenda threatening tunnel vision, and I felt myself allowing the mundane to swallow me whole as I silently chanted, “I can make it to bedtime. I can make it to bedtime.” Fixing breakfast, homeschooling, driving for hours to run errands, waiting in parking lots, taking the kids to several public bathrooms, exchanging curriculum books, getting the oil changed, searching for winter fleece for the kids – it was a full day, but at each stop I felt a reminder, “Look into people’s faces and give them your warmest smile.”  And I did. I tried my very best to, at least. (and no, we weren’t at fancy stores or in a fancy town this time either.) The result was that I started feeling better about the day- I became even a little excited about it. I know a smile isn’t something that often changes someone’s life course or anything, but it was the only door open to me with these particular people today, and I decided I would walk through it.

What happened next was one of those things I couldn’t make up if I tried. Elijah and I had finished our errand and were waiting patiently for the other half of the family (Daddy and brother) to come pick us up (a one-vehicle family challenge we don’t really mind). But because it was hot, we decided to go back inside to wait. We had been inside the shop for about 3 minutes when this older lady walked up to us and said, “Can I hug you and your family?” Immediately I thought she must be a little confused, so I said, “Hi, how are you?” She just repeated her question, “Can I hug you?” This time I replied, “Sure,” and leaned forward to hug her. But instead of hugging me, she put her hand on my shoulder and prayed for me. It was a short prayer of blessing and healing and health for me and my family, and it blessed me – right there in the middle of the purse isle at TJ Maxx. Then she asked where my little boy was, and when he timidly emerged from the other isle, she prayed for him as well. Then we thanked her, and she was gone (and so was the neck pain and migraine I’d been secretly fighting for the past week).

This encounter left me thinking: How many times in the past have I missed blessings like this because I was too busy to notice the people around me? And something else: why don’t I do things like this for other people myself? Not something weird or self-promoting or self-generated, but when the Holy Spirit whispers into my heart that someone needs prayer, why don’t I pray for them – wherever we happen to be – just for a minute?

Looking back, I missed one of these opportunities just the other day.  On a regular old grocery shopping trip, the cashier spontaneously started telling us how hard it was to be divorced and dating again. We were literally swiping our debit card to pay, grabbing our bags to head out the door, and she just decided for whatever reason to give us a little glimpse into her life. For hours after that I couldn’t get her off my mind and heart. And after my encounter in TJ Maxx, I keep wishing I had said in that moment, “Hey, I’m praying that you’ll be blessed and that your difficulty would be over”? Even better, what if I had been bold enough to say a quick prayer with her to bless her right then?

For all of us who have been impacted by God’s touch, I don’t think it needs to be something weird or kooky, but when we’ve already said yes to Jesus and are fully alive in Him and fully present in the moment with eyes open to people around us, I am convinced that we are going to see people hurting, and we can choose step out of our own world and give them an opportunity to be impacted by His touch too.

So I’m working on it, and I’ll keep working on it – every single time I encounter another human being. Here’s my guide: “Keep a smile on your face. Love from the center of who you are – don’t fake it. Get along with each other – don’t be stuck up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody…discover beauty in everyone…” (Romans 12 MSG) Will you join me?



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