There are two Publixes in my town, and MY Publix, being slightly out of the way and in a quieter area, has been a delightful spot since we moved here six years ago. It’s bright and clean, and the employees are the friendliest I’ve ever encountered. The best part? If I hit it at the right time of day, it’s practically empty (so, good for me, not for Publix). You know the introverts of the world prefer grocery shopping alone and making eye contact with no one. And if I can make the trip without my kids in tow? *Insert praise hands emoji*
Well. Months back, a new apartment complex opened next door to my sweet, quiet, peaceful Publix, and as new residents began moving in, this terrible thing happened. All these people started shopping at my grocery store. They were suddenly crowding my aisles and forcing me to wait in a line at the deli counter (so, good for Publix, not for me). I could no longer find a parking spot in my usual row. A lover of consistency and routine, I didn’t adapt well to any of this. So many people everywhere! And some of them so grumpy, right there in my happy place! Where did they even come from?
My initial reaction was to change my approach to grocery shopping. I would no longer take my time strolling up and down each aisle, enjoying my solitude and the ’80s tunes playing overhead. No, I would be a defensive player. (That might be the one and only sports analogy you’ll ever see here, by the way.) Keep my head down, stick to the list, push my cart swiftly and with authority, make small talk with no one, beat the other shoppers to the short line, swipe my card, and get the heck out of there. I survive! I win!
But God. (Isn’t it always “but God”?)
It started with a man, cart full of groceries, two little girls up front and another walking beside, on a day when the checkout lines were particularly long. I had beaten him to the shortest line with my own full cart. I looked up and we made eye contact, and something in my heart said, “Move.” So I took a couple of steps back and beckoned him over from his place in the line next to me.
He took me up on the offer with a grateful smile, and I stepped behind him and waved at the little girls in the cart.
It was a tiny interaction that didn’t cost me much—maybe five extra minutes of standing. It wasn’t a huge moment in the history of grocery shopping and checkout line acts of kindness. But God stirred something in me right there between the tabloids and the candy.
I can be a gospel-sharer anywhere and everywhere I find myself. As a follower of Christ that’s not a task to do, or something I turn off and on as needed—it’s who I am.
It’s time to change the way I look at grocery shopping—and every other mundane task that brings me into contact with other humans, for that matter. Every day is full of opportunities to be Jesus to someone who needs him. I just haven’t been paying attention—or worse, dismissing some opportunities with “but not right now…”
It’s not that hard or scary, either. I can do this stuff:
• Make eye contact with employees and other customers. Engage.
• Smile at people—even when they butt you in line or grab the last of the BOGO Oreos off the shelf.
• Let others go first.
• Be a helper.
• Share a positive word. Look for the opportunities to strike up a conversation with someone—which teriyaki marinade you prefer, why Oreo Thins are better than original, whatever. (That’s right, I said it.)
• Befriend the cashiers and baggers. Learn their names. Talk with them about your obsession with Hamilton. (Yeah, I did that.)
• Beat them to the punch by telling them you hope THEY have a great day first.
• Leave with a smile, not in a huff.
• Teach your kids to do all of the above.
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others…” —Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:14-16
Lord, help me not to look past the people right in front of me every day—at Publix, at the post office, sitting in car line after school—stashing my lamp under a basket just because I’m in a hurry to get errands done.
Where do your daily outings take you? What else would you add to the list above? Are there opportunities to be a light in places you hadn’t considered before?
The interaction might seem insignificant in the moment, but believe me, it’s not—not to the person on the receiving end. (It will change you, too, by the way.) And there’s no one like our God to take those little moments and turn them into something beautiful and kingdom-building.