Lowly and Gentle

Challenge Central: a CBC devotional

By: Laurie Korstanje

I was at a local thrift store, taking my time browsing for just the right items. A volunteer warmly greeted me when I walked in. There were a handful of people in the store. I started looking through the section I was sure held my treasures when I heard the lady behind the counter greet a customer by name. She said it was nice to see him; it had been a while. Then she asked what he was going to do with the items he was buying. Seeing him for the first time made me look out of curiosity. He was an elderly, disheveled and rather thin man. His clothing was well-worn. He told her where the various items he had collected would go, naming each friend and what they would get. As I continued to browse, I heard the volunteer exchange pleasantries with each customer, treating them as if they were special. It got busier by the time I was ready to check out. There was a man at the counter who was again greeted by name. He had a pull-cart with many things, including a stack of records. He, too, was older. As she pulled each item out, adding up as she went, he said he only had ten dollars. She said he had shopped very enthusiastically for having only ten dollars. As I watched their exchange, it was evident he had some limitations. She was very gentle with him and so patient. Three people were lined up behind him, but she didn’t rush him. Instead, she deftly bargained with him to donate the music CDs back to the store when he was finished listening to them. He thought that was a good idea. As he left the store, dignity fully intact, the clerk helping her bag the goods said to the lady next in line, “we help in many ways.”

I was very impressed that day by the kindness that many people have for one another. In this world, the poor and vulnerable aren’t always treated with the respect they deserve. In other retail stores, they may have been asked to return items to stay within the money they have with them. I recognize that it may be easier to accommodate in a store with donated items, but the kindness the staff had for those individuals spread to the customers standing in line. You could see it on their faces, smiles, not inpatient sighs, with being made to wait a few extra minutes.

A few years back, while standing in a line at the grocery store, I observed a cashier who was clearly not having the best day. She seemed distracted and talkative to the point of maybe being annoying. A couple left her line-up; others soldiered through. No one seemed to be showing much patience. When it was my turn, I remember looking at her and smiling. I asked her how she was and how her day was going. To my great surprise, the woman broke down and began to weep. I remember a co-worker walked up, rolled her eyes and kept walking. The cashier talked to me for the next five minutes about her three-year-old grandchild, who had recently died because of neglect. She said it was her only grandchild and likely to be her only grandchild. She thanked me for listening. Most people saw a woman they perceived as annoying, not as someone whose heart was broken and desperately needed a friendly smile from a stranger.

Colossians 3:12Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience…

So let’s be kind to one another.

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