I have always been taught to look for God in the places where the poor and the outcast gather: witness the presence of Jesus in a distant outpost of the empire instead of showing up in Rome.
If Jesus came back to earth today, I suspect he wouldn't bother with the U.S. at all--there are many places that are far more destitute. But if he did, I would expect to see him at my neighborhood grocery store that somehow manages to exist in the shadow of the luxury condo high rises that have been built over the last decade.
Yesterday, with my heart still sad about all that has been happening in Syria, I headed to the grocery store to stock up for the upcoming visit with my family. I always go early, because the parking lot and surrounding streets are a nightmare most of the time. I am often the only one buying the groceries for the week. There are usually some construction workers buying lunch for later, along with a school kid or two picking up candy.
There's usually a homeless person pontificating, and the store workers usually react with patience. There are people with bodies battered by a variety of failures, both of personal willpower and societal options. Yesterday I saw an elderly couple who fumbled with cards at the check out--was it because they couldn't understand how to insert them into a machine or because they didn't have enough credit on any one card?
Yesterday I also saw an older man in a wheelchair with horribly swollen legs that had sores and bandages, the classic signs of diabetes. As I was loading my groceries into the car, I noticed that he was stopped in the middle of the parking lot. I ran over to help him; I pushed the wheelchair up the slight incline that led to the other side of the parking lot. I felt a deep sorrow for a person so disabled and so lacking in support that he was stranded in a parking lot. I have no doubt that someone would have helped him at some point, just so that they could drive their cars out of the parking lot. But still, the larger picture was not lost on me.
I am always prompted to pray when I'm at this grocery store, but yesterday I prayed more than I usually do. Of course, I was already in a contemplative mood, having spent the morning thinking about Syria. My prayer list grows ever longer.
As I drove away, the words from a later verse of "Silent Night" circled in my head: "Bless all the dear children in thy tender care." It seemed the perfect prayer for my little grocery store.
feeling the feelings…
10 months ago