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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