In the middle of Aldi’s frozen food aisle, I did church. Right in between the tater tots and frozen peas, I almost missed it, but I’m so grateful I didn’t.
I’ve spent the last few years studying the theology of hospitality, and I’ve begged the Holy Spirit to heighten my awareness on the topic. After four decades of following Him, I’m having my own mini-revival in my own heart.
It’s hard to explain, but He’s opening my eyes in new ways. He’s perked my ears to conversations that I typically stroll by, and He’s revealing powerful stories simply because I’m slowing down enough to walk this road of welcome wherever I go.
Stay alert, aware, and engage is my mantra. I’m turning apathy into attentiveness.
As I chaperoned a D.C. high school trip, my sister-in-law and I were tasked with meal prep. As I pushed my cart in the grocery store, I observed the oddest pairing of shoppers: an elderly white man and a young African American man pushing a cart together.
I started eavesdropping on their conversation.
The young man held up two items, and he contemplated, “If I buy this, it’s twice as much as that, so I can’t afford both.” He put the treat back, and the man gave a short commentary about his decision.
Is it weird that I started tearing up? I can’t begin to explain how this moment impacted me. I stumbled upon an older man mentoring a younger man on the simple tasks of grocery shopping. A daily act that we take for granted.
I inched closer and “went on my phone.” Okay, I’ll admit it. I stalked them because I was so moved by this seemingly ordinary, mundane task.
I wanted to yell over the loudspeaker, “Life changing legacy on Aisle 7. Pay close attention, this is how we do life together.”
No one seemed to notice.
I found my sister-in-law, and we moved to full-blown stalker status. There’s no time to second guess when the Lord directs you to speak encouragement, so we approached them, “We didn’t mean to eavesdrop, but we wanted you to know how special it is to watch your relationship. Thanks for teaching him. I wished we would have had someone teach us how to shop.”
For a split second, I panicked. How will they respond? Did we offend? I clarified, “It seemed like you were shopping together. We love seeing you do that as a team.”
For the next forty-five minutes, we did church together in an inner city grocery store with John, a seventy-seven-year-old white man and Kaqueen, a twenty-year-old black man attempting to find focus for his future.
As John shared their unique story of friendship and struggle, he looked at Kaqueen, “Am I embarrassing you? You’re okay with this, right?”
Feeling defensive of his feelings, I interrupted, “Trust me, nothing to be embarrassed about. Our sons are the same age. You can come teach them to grocery shop any day.”
“I don’t have any sons.” John remarked.
But Kaqueen butted in, “I’m his number one son.”
Our conversation went back and forth diving into their history. John continued, “I told him he should consider the Army as a possibility. Why should he struggle and work three jobs to make ends meet. Doesn’t he want to get out of this neighborhood? I know. I’ve lived here for thirty years. It’s become a tough place to change your life. I’m letting him live in my apartment until he can get on his feet. I want more for him.”
We felt led to affirm Kaqueen’s value and point Him to the only One who can truly rescue him.
“Do you know that God has made you for a beautiful purpose? He sends angels our way to help fulfill purposes in our life and we think John is that for you. You matter. Generations need your story. How many twenty-year-olds have a man like this in their life?”
Kaqueen added, “I love hanging out with him more than my own friends. I learn things and think about things that I would never think about with my own friends.”
My sister-in-law and I continued, “The world needs young people that are being mentored and anchored because then you can make a difference for others. We believe you are going to be a world changer.”
Matter-of-factly, he responded, “I don’t exactly know what that means, but I think I believe that.”
I told him, “Twenty years from now, you’ll be shopping with your own children telling them what an impact John had on your life. This is a beautiful picture of what the world needs. Life on life, black and white, young and old, inter-generational friendships encouraging one another.”
“Yeah, we should be on TV,” Kaqueen determined.
“Yes,” we chuckled in agreement, “this would make the best feel-good Hallmark movie because it’s all true.”
Then John made a comment that caused me to pause, “In twenty years, I doubt he will even remember me.”
Clear the aisle because I jumped on ten soap boxes to affirm his significance and calling.
“Your hospitality, your mentorship — he will never forget you. You are changing his generational tree. His children’s children will thank you.”
As we parted, he stopped us, “Thank you for interrupting us today. I have a lot to think about. I will not forget this.”
Neither will I, neither will I.
Walk the road of welcome, friends. There are Kaqueens and Johns waiting to share their story, and you never know where the Lord will ask you to share yours.
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Bev @ Walking Well With God says
I LOVE this! We can do church anywhere: the grocery store, a nearby park, waiting in line at the DMV, encouraging a mom pushing twins in a stroller. All it takes is being open to God’s leading and when He opens a door, we need to be brave enough to step through. Just as Kaqueen will remember his senior mentor, this man will remember your blessing of “well done good and faithful servant.”
Yes Please to encouraging mums pushing strollers!! Haha
And Please Forgive Us when trying to shop with lots of kids gets in the way of us being as hospitable/considerate as we should be.
May God help grow that capacity in me despite the mummying chaos!
Oh no worries there. Don’t we all have different seasons? I certainly remember when going into the grocery store with children meant survival mode and definitely not one to eavesdrop on conversations. 🙂
you’re doing a great job, momma.
I LOVE this story! What a blessing you were to them and them to you. So glad you followed the Holy Spirit’s prompting to be brave and talk to them. Your words spoke life to their unique relationship. A simple lesson about grocery shopping will never be forgotten.
Ann Woleben says
I love this story. If only our whole world could be like this – just imagine – but I guess we will have to wait for Heaven. In the meantime, staying alert to the possibility of listening and sharing with others is the key. Thank you for sharing.
And won’t it be such a celebration to swap those stories in heaven? 🙂
Hattie Damon says
God has blessed me with some young people to be a John to in the hustle and bustle of life. This truly is “The great adventure.” I find young people (and people in general) are just looking for significance and we who are seasoned with years of life experiences need to be in tune to the Holy Spirit’s leading in offering hope, hugs, encouragement, guidance and wisdom. We need to TAKE TIME TO CARE. Thank you for this timely reminder.
Oh Hattie – THANK YOU THANK YOU for stepping out in obedience and mentoring and pouring into those a little behind you in the journey. So grateful for you.
Melinda S. says
Just wow! What a beautiful story to eavesdrop on, to join in on, and to share with us so we can be a part also! I am going to be on the lookout for a beautiful story as well! Thank you for sharing and for affirming them both in their beautiful journey together~
I love this story so much 🙂
You are so welcome, Melinda.
have a terrific Tuesday.
Love this. Reading it as I get ready for work. I am a pediatric physical therapist and every Saturday I see a young adult man with cerebral palsy that I have been treating for his entire life. I pray, worry and try to motivate him and his mom to help him live to his potential. He walks with a single cane, graduated from high school but has every reason in the world (in his thinking) not to try to get a job or help himself. Mom is lovely but unable to really help with some tough love. He needs a “John” in his life. Will you take a moment friends and pray for Michael today. Pray that he will have others “do church” with him. Thank you friends.
Susan – first, thank you for all the ways you encourage and support those every day while doing your vocational work. I know you are having an impact, but yes, I am praying for that family now. I can only imagine how challenging it would be.
I want this kind of story in my life! Thanks for sharing.
THIS is the type of hope-encouragement-truth speaking post the church NEEDS to speak over everyone who will stop and read this! Thank you for getting down to the nitty gritty TRUTH of the love of our Great Lord without getting sidetracked by the world’s desires to search for political issues in every interaction. Thank you Jennifer!
You are so welcome. 🙂 Trying to stay focused in my lane.
Stephanie Guest says
This story touched me deeply. Thank you for sharing it.
Dawn Ferguson-Little says
We are the Church to the world. The unsaved watch us who are saved. By the way we live our lives. The Church is not the body it is the saved people like me and you. So we have to be very careful the way we live our lives when in this big world. No matter where we go. By what we do and say. Live the way Jesus would want us to live it. Like what you did in the Grocery store going talking to those two men that God Holy Spirit guided you to go talk to. Look were it leaded you too. So you never know who that you are talking to that is not saved that is watching you that are saved. On how you live your life as Christian. If you drive and it raining if you know someone in your Church don’t do what a lady said to me this lady said and did to her. You will be ok you have an umbrella. It was raining that day when the lady said it. That lady that had the umbrella did not drive. The lady that said that did drive. The lady that had the umbrella was not saved. So if you where saved and said that to unsaved person didn’t offer that unsaved person a lift home. Especially if going past her door home. When it raining. It would not make the unsaved person think much of the saved person. Or want to get saved. It would make in my eyes if unsaved say if Christian like that why would I bother getting saved. So we have to be a Christian be the Church to the unsaved and live our lives like Jesus would. Doing good to all. Plus being kind caring and loving to all. Saved or not saved. Let the Holy Spirit guide us to know when to reach out to speak to people plus not to reach out to people speak just pray quietly and a time too help thoes in needs. Just like you did in the grocery store went to speak to those to men.
Love Dawn Ferguson-Little
Thank you for sharing, Dawn. Sometimes we forgot the power that a rhythm of kindness and welcome have on those around us.
Elsa Seidel says
The grocery store has become my local mission field. I know most of the workers and clerks by name. A few months ago, when I asked one of the produce men how he was doing, he just said “okay.” That didn’t sound too positive so I asked him what was going on. He replied that several months earlier a customer came in, was rather violent and this worker had to take him down. In the process blood was exchanged and the grocery worker was diagnosed with hepatitis C. He was to start the long treatment that week. I told him my 3 a.m. prayer time was open for additional requests and he was added. Two weeks later I asked him how it was going. He told me that the “other day” he had gotten a call from the medical office and was told the initial lab report was a false positive. PTL! I told him was surely can praise the Lord. He agreed; don’t know whether he has a personal relationship with Jesus. Since then I have had prayer with other workers. It is so delightful how Jesus gives us opportunities to share the love and hope we have. Jennifer, I love your comment, “Stay alert, aware, and engage is my mantra. I’m turning apathy into attentiveness.” God will overwhelm us.
Oh Elsa – I love reading this and thank you for making your ordinary, everyday store, the place to shine Jesus love on those around you. 🙂 What an impact you’ve already had.
Beth Williams says
Thank you for taking the time to listen & obey God. That little conversation probably did more to boost their spirits than anything. They will never forget it. I know Kaqueen will never forget his mentor. This world needs more John’s. People taking the time to mentor & teach the younger generation. It can build a bond between the two people. Older people have a flood of information & time on their hands. Take the time to mentor a younger person in life skills, church, what ever. It will do both of you good. We are commanded in Titus 2:4 to train the young women in Godly living. More importantly we ALL need to heed Christ’s call to do church. Now more than ever we need to shine God’s light on the sin darkened world. Take the time to speak to others about God & His saving grace. This proves the point that church can be done anywhere at anytime. We don’t need fancy buildings just people walking the walk & talking the talk.
Amy Burgin says
What a beautiful story! Thank you for sharing! I let shyness – or something under the cover of shyness – prevent me from talking to people so many times and I miss out on “church” because of it. I’m encouraged by your story to be more bold and live more fully in Christ. I love that “for a spit second,” you “panicked.” I love that he thanked you for “interrupting.” I love that you celebrated their lives and choices! I pray it sticks with them a long time and they are encouraged by that “church service” over and over again!
l LOVE this story, thanks for sharing!!
Jessica C says
I loved this beautiful story you shared. Us younger people really do need the ones ahead of us to help us find our way..I wish I’d had a mentor as a teen. Perhaps I wouldn’t struggle so much as an adult. Life isn’t easy for sure. But your encouragement to this duo in the grocery store was a gift to them. So many think “they don’t have anything to offer.” It’s not true. We can all learn from and teach another.
What a beautiful story! Thank you so much for sharing. It is so good to hear positive things like this. Praise the Lord!
In Beautiful Chaos says
Beautiful story! Church is NEVER about the place, it’s ALWAYS about the people!
In Beautiful Chaos
This was so profoundly touching.
Thank-you for sharing such a special moment with us.
Blessings to all,