I have had some unique experiences with strangers lately. They have occurred at the gas station and the store, usually in moments when I was in a hurry or wanted to be alone. These interactions with strangers have me wondering what God is trying to get at. I know that how I respond to people matters to Him. How I view people that I know and that I don't know matters to Him.
It started with a lady at Walmart a couple of weeks ago. I like to shop alone. I am with my kids all day doing cyber school. Sometimes the grocery store can be a good place to get lost in thought even though I am doing grocery shopping. I am usually not the most sociable person in the grocery store. I have in fact at times hidden from people I recognize because I coveted my alone time or because I was task oriented and wanted to get in and out of the store quickly with the groceries. This time I was in the aisle that has all of the dinner plates and mugs looking for a gift for a friend. Lost in which pattern I thought she would like best, I suddenly find myself being talked to by a stranger. She wants to know what I think about a set of plates she is looking at. I wonder why this matters because I could tell her anything and she doesn't know me well enough to know if I am being honest! I ended up having a nice conversation with her about dinner plates, Thanksgiving, and sales. Then we parted ways.
The next strange experience I had recently was at a gas station. I was in a hurry to get gas and pick up some family members for church. So I prepaid and went to the car to pump gas. A man comes toward me from the next pump over and tells me that his wife just won a small lottery and he wants to be a gentleman and pump my gas for me. I politely say, "No thanks" because he looks a little rough, his wife is no where in sight, and I have my husband's car. My husband is meticulous about his car. All I can think is that if that man scratches the car, I am in trouble! But the man says to me, "Please let me pump your gas. I just want to be a gentleman there aren't many of them around today." So I agree because it seems to matter to him. He pumps the gas and when he's done he thanks me several times for letting him do it and I ask his name and thank him for being so kind. I drove away thinking about what a blessing that was, that someone out there just wanted to be nice. What a shame it was that I let myself be a little scared about it at first. I could have missed the blessing of meeting Ray!
My most recent experience was yesterday. I was shopping for an area rug and couldn't decide between an off white or a slightly darker color. I was by myself and the rugs were on sale but not easy to lift and get into the cart. Just as I am standing there thinking about which one to get a voice from behind me says, "You'd have to be nuts to buy a light colored rug when you live in the Poconos!" I turn around and a man in his sixties points to a different rug and starts to tell me why that is a better rug and offers to put it in the cart for me. Then I get a crash course on pellet stoves from him before we part ways, even though I wasn't looking to buy one! I left the store with the rug he had directed me to. I brought it home and it was really the perfect rug. I couldn't help but think how nice it was that that man cared what rug I was going to buy and helped me.
What I have learned from these three separate experiences is that God seems to want me to make time even for strangers. To look them in the eye and to listen to them even if they look rough, sound crazy, or are interrupting my alone time. People matter to Him and how we respond to them matters to Him. I need to look at these strangers and listen to these strangers the way that I would one of my friends. This makes me think about my responses past and present to all different kinds of people. How did I treat them? What is the response I can give them that most reflects God's heart? When I see someone or am approached by someone who has nothing do I treat them as nothing? Or do I treat them the same as I would the guy living in the mansion on the hill, with the same respect? How do I respond to the person who approaches me and just wants to talk? Do I act like I only have a second because there are so many more important things I need to do? Or do I listen so intently that they feel like I have all the time in the world for them and they matter to me? The truth is that every single person matters to God. He doesn't want us to treat anyone better or worse based on their income, appearance, nationality, age, etc.! He wants us to respond to them the way that He responds to us. How is that? With love. God always makes time for us. He always listens.
I want to encourage you this week to respond to others the way that God has responded to you. Give them your time, your attention, and your listening ear. This is your witness. This is you reflecting Christ's love to others. You may be the only glimpse of Him that they get. Treat them the way He treats you. Remember that He loves you very much and love Him back by loving others.