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  • Lea Hartline

Jesus in Walgreens

Last Sunday, I had to drive up to Chattanooga and wait for my daughter for just a few hours. Whenever I get trapped somewhere, and I know I am near a laundry mat, I will grab a load of laundry. I love to go to the laundry mat once in a while, and just people watch. I love people, and I love to watch them, wondering what their stories are all about.

My mind was filled with an extensive to-do list. I had to shop for prom dresses, get ready for a birthday party, drive kids everywhere, pay bills, clean the house, and cook dinner. I pulled into the Walgreens to pick up laundry detergent, and I barely noticed the stranger as I drifted past.

My to-do list kept me from even seeing the people around me. The cashier pulled me out of my thoughts, interacted with me, and made me see the people around me for the first time. I was going to miss the beauty of the people around me because I couldn't stop my mind from twirling and whirling around. I stepped out into the cool air, a little more aware of the people around me, and then I saw him, the guy who would make my Sunday a day of true blessings. It would remind me how little things can make or break a person's faith or belief in other people. I sat in my car watching him smile and greet other people; you could sense him trying to get the courage to ask for help.

Maybe he was new to this need. Maybe he had grown tired of all of the people saying no. Perhaps even in his need, his pride was too big to ask for help. I looked at my change tin, thinking of how it rattles and makes every car ride too noisy for my husband. I sat thinking of how it held the quarters for my load of laundry and a few emergency dollars for oops, low on gas and no card. I thought about how I was pinching pennies and starting to save for this and that. I sat wondering was I right about what I saw. Was I seeing a man in need of my change? Would his pride be so big that he would be more insulted? Could my small tin of change make a difference in his life?

I watched as people passed by him, not noticing him as he greeted them with a slight smile and hello. He never asked for anything, but his need was so great you could see it in his eyes. I sat watching, not sure what to do. I couldn't simply just drive away and leave him; his eyes would haunt me in my twirling and whirling thoughts. Standing there as I watched and wondered how to approach this man with my change in, I could only hear one verse screaming loud in my ear.

Matthew 25:35-45

35 For I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger, and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes, and you clothed me, I was sick, and you looked after me, I was in prison, and you came to visit me.'

37 "Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'

40 "The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'

41 "Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry, and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty, and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger, and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes, and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison, and you did not look after me.'

44 "They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger needing clothes or sick or in prison and did not help you?'

45 "He will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'

I opened my door to step out and hand him the tin, an almost meaningless gesture, but it was all I could do at the time. I watched an expensively dressed woman come out of Walgreens. The stranger greeted her. He made no step towards her, no gesture, and no request to her. Maybe she could see the hunger in his eyes. Perhaps her own desire for things overwhelmed her. Still, in that second, I saw what many might see as meanness, but deep beneath the surface, I think she lived a fear that one wrong step in her high heels and she could find herself hungry and wanting. I watched her turn on him and tell him to get a job and not stand there. He told her he was looking, but it was hard to find a job. She turned on him as she quickened her pace, and in front of the whole parking lot, she screamed in an angry, ugly tone, "While I have two jobs." His pride was stripped away in that very second. Strangers looked upon his hunger, need, and pain and did nothing.

I stopped. Would I only add to the humiliation? Was his need so great that instead of remembering her bitter, angry words, he would remember my smile and know that he would be in my prayers? Would he remember the anger or the compassion? I stepped towards him handed him my tin, and at that moment, I looked into the softest, kindest blue eyes I had ever seen. His laugh lines around his eyes shone bright, and if the eyes are the window to the soul, his is a beautiful soul. He said a soft, gentle thank you, and as I walked away, I heard him open the tin and only one word, "WOW."

As I drove away, the man in the car next to me got out of his car and handed him a few dollars. I wondered would those in the parking lot see his need now. Would they open their eyes and see the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the stranger, the ill, the prisoned… Would people start seeing Jesus?

I was truly blessed by this encounter for the rest of the day, and whoever you were, a stranger at Walgreens, you gave more than you were given. What a blessing on my day you turned out to be.

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Life on Faith and Fumes

Christian blog with stories, devotional and bible studies.

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