COLUMN — A bag of mulch and a message
I just wanted a bag of mulch at the discount store, but the cashier discovered a hole in the bag, so someone was sent to bring us another.
Meanwhile, we waited. Then, another item was missing a price tag so once again, someone was sent to find the correct price. We waited some more. While we waited the cashier talked… boy did he talk.
While filling out the check, I asked, “What is today’s date?”
“Don’t know. Don’t care. All I know is today’s Friday!” he said with emphasis and a grin.
In a feeble attempt to be polite, I replied, “So, you like Fridays?”
“Oh yeah,” he said with obvious enthusiasm. “I love Fridays. Because it’s party time and I love to party! I live to party!”
Before I could respond, he continued, “I drink and party all night long. My friends and me love to have a good time. We try to do it every night. That’s what I live for, friends, drinking and partying.”
I thought to myself, why is he saying this to me? Should I respond? Should I tell this young man he’s making a mistake? Should I tell him there is another way to enjoy life? Should I talk about God in a crowded department store to a stranger? I really don’t want to be a witness right now, Lord. I just want to make my purchase and go home. Is there anything wrong with that?
Yet, I thought. if I say nothing it looks as if I approve or at least condone his outrageous behavior. But if I say something, how do I say it without sounding judgmental and arrogant?
In essence, I was in a fix.
There is a verse in the Bible that seems appropriate, “Continue to live in fellowship with Christ so that when he returns, you will be full of courage and not shrink back from him in shame.” (1 John 2:28) I needed a dose of Godly courage and wisdom to say something appropriate to this young man and let him know I did not approve his actions but loved him as a child of God.
After a pause, I looked at the young cashier and flashed my biggest smile. “I want to thank you for telling me about your parties. You just made my day.”
This time, it was his turn to pause. “What do you mean?” he asked with a look of confusion.
“Well, I’m a preacher looking for someone who needs prayer. My friend, you are the one.”
His mouth opened in astonishment and he stared at me for a long moment before a smile began to appear. Then he laughed and said, “You won’t believe this, but my preacher said the same thing.”
For the next few moments, my new young friend talked about his minister and church. Recently, he had left home to make it on his own. You could see a trace of loneliness in his eyes as he said, “My pastor is a great guy. He writes me occasionally and the church still sends news.”
I left the discount store with a bag of mulch, a smile on my face and a new perspective on the importance of creatively communicating God’s message to each other. What we say, how we choose our words and our attitude behind those words can literally spell the difference between healing and hurting.
I would love to brag and say, this is the way I often handle my day-to-day encounters. But truthfully, this is an exception. All too often, I am too quiet when opportunity presents itself.
Whether you are standing in line at a department store or participating in a church committee meeting, God is continually offering opportunities to witness your faith. What will you say? How will you say it? Take a deep breath, pause, say a short prayer and remember the Scripture, “if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love has been brought to full expression through us.” (1 John 4:12)
As for me, I have a new friend to pray for and a valuable lesson to remember and practice. Now, if I could only find someone to spread this mulch.
REV. LARRY E. DAVIES can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.