By Joe Gomez
I made an old woman cry the other day, and it was great.
Last Friday, one of my coworkers and I were in the back room at Borders where we unpack shipments and load the carts for shelving. We talked about how since there was only a short amount of time left to work, we should just open up another crate and sort it onto carts instead of starting a project that we cant finish in shelving. I wish I could say that this was brought up because we were trying to efficiently manage our time, but the truth is that after 6 hours out on the floor, we need to find some job to do where we can work without having to talk to or move around customers. We made our decision, and as everyone else set up the back so wed have room to work, I went to the bathroom.
As I was walking to the back corner of the store where the bathrooms are, I came across an older woman who seemed to be really struggling to function at the moment. Her bag was hanging off of her arm as she was hunched over and the contents were on the verge of spilling out. The 3 or 4 books that she had picked out were on the floor as if she had just dropped them, and the look on her face just screamed that she was having a hard time.
I knelt down and picked up her books. As she straightened up, I noticed that she had two copies of The Shack. I asked her if she needed any help, to which she quickly replied with a disheveled Thanks, but Im alright. I said, Oh okay. As she was still struggling to gather herself back together, I mentioned that we had autographed copies of The Shack available because the author stopped by for an in-store concert and was nice enough to sign nearly 300 of our copies. She instantly shot up with excitement and asked me where they were.
I took her two copies and switched them out for our autographed ones and brought them back to her. She looked at them with such excitement in her eyes and almost instantly asked if I could grab her 2 more so she could give them to her friends who also loved the book. When I returned with 2 more, I immediately found myself going back for another because she remembered another friend who would like it.
With 5 copies of the book in my arms, I came back to where she was now on her knees looking for a certain novel. We spent 15 minutes looking for it until I looked at the paper that she was referencing that told her about it, and we both found that she had gotten it wrong.
Skip ahead 20 more minutes and we are standing in line at the registers as I am now holding about 8 to 9 books in my arms and her purse; which I felt a bit silly carrying through the store, but made the best of it by flaunting it with all I had. When it was finally her turn, she was hastily checked out by one of our people on the register (who obviously didnt want to be at work that day), paid for her books, took her bags, and was almost out the door when she stopped and turned with tears in her eyes as she genuinely said:
Thank you. I know I must have been frustrating and a lot to deal with, but you treated me with such love and respect. I havent felt helped, assisted, or even treated like a human being in such a long time. God will bless you for the light you bring into this place. Youre doing well, son.
I stood there shocked as the last few words left her mouth. She smiled, turned and left.
I didnt help that woman in order to boost customer service satisfaction, to earn a boy scout badge, or to get one of those monumentally dramatic smile and approving nods from one of the managers. There was no reward for carrying her pink purse and running back and forth to get more copies of a book. I didnt know why I helped that woman with such purpose. I wish I could say that I did it because I had the greatest commandment at the forefront of my perspective. I wish I could even say that I intentionally did all that I did. Looking back on that seemingly small, yet view altering moment, I can only attribute what happened in that 30-45 minutes to God alone working through his tired and drained son to love this woman.
I remember sitting out on lawn chairs in the field between my friend, Jeffs, apartment and mine as he told me about a time in his life when he made hotdogs and handed them out to the homeless in Franklin. He told me about how at one point in the day these guys came up to him as they ate the hot dogs that he gave and said, Youre a Christian arent you?
While neither of us believe that we should stake our ministry on just being nice or helping the poor, I do believe that one of the biggest yet most often missed truths is that the actions and words that speak and share our God into the lives of those around us will only come when our lives, words, and actions are surrendered to God. Ill be honest and say that I dont pray each morning on the way to work that God will give me strength to be nice to elderly women. I just surrender my words and my actions, that I would be used by Him in whatever way that God wants to shine his light and flood his love into the place that I work.
There are so many times that I get specific, looking for the right situation to serve, and I dont surrender everything else to Him.
To me, this is kind of like treating the symptoms or Tending to the fruit.
Do we take care of each individual fruit or do we water and feed the tree?
I want to get back to the source.
Joe loves life in Nashville, Tn and spends most of his days reading, writing, playing guitar, eating great food, and deepening himself in a dependence of the love of his heavenly Father. He blogs at: www.josephallyngomez.com.