I went to Aldi’s today for a little pre-Thanksgiving grocery shopping. The only word I can think of to describe the trip is mad house. My Aldi was packed with crazed holiday shoppers buying every manner of food items you might need for the big feast. It was almost a grocery cart traffic jam.
No less than three times I ran into (almost literally) the same woman who seemed to be shopping for the same items as me, except she may have been shopping for a family three times the size of mine. Each time I tried to say something friendly and smile. Initially she was unable to respond in kind. But, by the last time we met we discussed the pros and cons of the Aldi’s freezer selections. As I was pushing my cart thru the parking lot to get my bags to the car, I ran into her one more time. She waved and smiled and I wished her a happy thanksgiving.
First, I want to say I’m not a stalker. Second, being outgoing is not typically difficult for me. Though I grew up a bit north of here in the midwest, my family has taught me this: be kind to people in your path. Look folks in the eye. Speak kindly. That kind of thing. Having made sure you understand those specifics, I wanted to share what I realized today. North, south, east, west – I’ve noticed people are tense. Even here in the south, where it is typical, even expected that you would make conversation in the grocery line, people are not at ease in public the way we used to be. Fear is no respecter of geography or cultural norms.
Did I mention the lady I spoke to looked like it was possible she might be from the middle east? I can’t say for sure whether she was or wasn’t…
Honestly, I’ve walked on our city’s streets and wondered if there’ll be an attack here, like there was in Paris. And I know it is not an impossibility. I’m not paralyzed by my fears and anxiety. Not exactly. I’m just not as friendly as I was. Instead I tiptoe around afraid. And worse, I’m suspicious. This is the opposite of loving my neighbor.
Recently I’ve been bombarded on Facebook and social media and news outlets about refugees coming to our country, and what our Christian response to them should be. It seems ridiculous for me to be thinking about housing refugees when I become extremely nervous just seeing a person of middle eastern decent in public. And don’t tell me I’m alone in this: I’m not the only one who is afraid of all the scenarios of “what might happen.”
Today, I began to understand that loving my neighbor has to start in the checkout line at the grocery store. It is moving beyond my anxious heart and believing that I must love those God allows me to meet. Will I ever use my home or my resources to show God’s love to Syrian refugees? I truly don’t know. I will leave that to Him and try to move obediently into opportunities He gives. But, I will love my neighbor as He commanded starting now – even at Aldi’s.
Matthew 22:36-40 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”