“For we are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works.” -Ephesians 2:10
I went to Kroger the other day with a plan. I had my list, my timeline, and my journey mapped out. We are having Vacation Bible School this week and I was picking up supplies to make yummy treats for the adult workers. I skipped unnecessary aisles and dodged some people that would slow me down and I felt pretty well perfect—a textbook grocery experience. Nothing or no one was going to get me off track!
I was completely immersed in the vanilla wafer choices…mini, reduced fat, Nabisco, Keebler, etc. My mind was dancing at the thought of people gobbling up the banana pudding I was going to make. I knew in my heart that it would be the “hit of the night.” Just as I made my crucial choice, someone dared to say, “Excuse me…” Privately, I thought, “Are you kidding me? I’m busy and now I’m going to have to stop and talk to someone.” With my “whatever!” attitude, I pivoted and my heart turned a somersault.
Standing before me was a precious elderly gentleman. His eyes were twinkling and the last thing he was thinking about was getting out of there quickly. I could tell that he had all the time in the world, and now he was going to dip into my time. He said, “You look like you know a lot about baking. Come over here with me.” As if hypnotized, I obediently followed him to the baking aisle. He explained to me that he had a list and just couldn’t handle finding all of the items. He didn’t ask me to find one item, he asked me to fill the entire list—no less than 12 items. Somewhere between the vanilla extract and the butter flavored Crisco, my focus shifted from what a hurry I had been in to what exactly this man was planning to bake.
Come to find out, the smallest ingredient in this encounter was finding out what he was going to bake. Turns out, I had two lessons to learn that morning. After his grocery basket was bulging, he invited me to the canned cooking spray section. He proceeded to tell me the best way to make popcorn and exactly which spray to use so it tastes just like “genuine movie theatre popcorn!” Carefully, he outlined the steps of popping fresh popcorn, laying it out in a single layer and spraying it generously with the butter flavored cooking spray. He literally put a can in my basket.
Nearly twenty minutes later, he turned to me with tears in his eyes. He pulled out his wallet and said he was going to pay me $5 for helping him. Of course, I refused. The man went on to say that he didn’t expect anyone to do anything free for him. I realized that the absence of genuine kindness in our society is in fact a festering problem. The idea of getting paid to carry out a good work made me very sad. Furthermore, it disturbed me that he had possibly gotten the impression that he had bothered me or that I expected something in return.
Consequently, this unexpected meeting reignited a long lost fire in my heart. The fire of honest servanthood—doing good because it is what I’m called to do. It does not involve doing good only when it is convenient or when I get some kind of return for it. Indeed, it is seeing someone in need and placing myself in their path to serve…with an extra serving of sugar on top!