It was one of those days when I was out for an appointment and realized on my way home that I needed to pick up just two items from a grocery store. I can sometimes grumble when I recognize I need to do something like that after an appointment because all I want to do is go home.
But I was going to drive right past my favorite grocery store so picking up those two items now made sense since I needed one of them to prepare dinner. I knew exactly where those items were located in the store so I could make this a very quick stop and when I drove into the parking lot it looked like it wouldn’t be too busy.
In no time at all I had both items in my hands and was rounding the corner of an aisle to head to the checkout aisle when I noticed a department manager unpacking some boxes. She had helped me in times past in making a selection, but I had never known her name. It was really by chance I noticed her since many times I am in the store and don’t see her.
As I got closer to where she was working, I felt nudged to stop and tell her how much I appreciated her and the help she offered me at other times. For less than a split second I almost continued speeding by, but then chose to stop to tell her since no other customers were nearby.
When I expressed my appreciation to her, her face registered surprise. She thanked me and went on to share that she often doesn’t feel appreciated by the management of the store for all that she does. As I stood listening without rushing on, she went on to share she was getting ready to leave because her blood pressure was spiking and she wanted to go home.
She shared that she would be leaving her position by the end of the year to retire as a result of some significant health issues that might be cancer. These issues were so stressful that it had resulted in very erratic blood pressure and more than a few trips to the emergency room because of that. She said she loved the customers she helped and was concerned the store management would not choose a replacement that would show that level of care for the people she helped.
As I continued to listen and noted her nametag, I began to silently pray for her. I thanked her for sharing this with me and told her I would check on her the next time I was in the store, but wouldn’t hold her up when she needed to leave.
A chance encounter became a purpose.
As I walked out of the store with my two items, I wondered how often I have missed noticing someone, stopping, and discovering why I felt nudged to do so. It reminded me of something I had just read in Lisa Wingate’s book, Larkspur Cove:
“Stop looking ahead. Stop looking back. Stop. Look around.”
No, I didn’t tell her I would pray for her nor feel nudged to do that. What I felt nudged to do was to allow her to know I heard her. That was the most immediate need for someone who seemed to feel unseen and perhaps unappreciated. I could have said it despite not knowing if she was a Christian, but I sensed that what she most needed was not to have me draw attention to my faith and focus on caring for her heart.
A few days later I was in the store and saw this woman again. I made a point to go speak to her and call her by name as I asked her how she was feeling. She seemed surprised to have a customer call her by name and noted she was feeling a bit better and would be finishing her shift soon. I told her I was thinking about her and would see her again soon.
I also went online to the store website and wrote a letter to the top management about what an outstanding job this woman does and how she has helped me many times. I expressed an awareness that she had some health issues and I hoped that if she ever needed to be replaced that they would look for someone just like her.
Today I received an email back from the main office thanking me for being in touch about this employee. The person who wrote it said my comments and commendations would be passed on to the store manager and noted they have a program to commend employees for outstanding customer service such as the woman I wrote about.
Am I, are you, so busy rushing through each day that we miss chance meetings that have a purpose we cannot begin to imagine?
3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
Philippians 2:3-4 (NIV)