This week’s eNewsletter Feature
was written by Rev. Dr. Raymond Hylton
FPCE senior pastor.
I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving with your family and friends.
For some people, the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays evoke feelings and memories that are both positive and negative — these are seasons that bring up and bring out the best and the worst in us.
Let me share a recent incident I witnessed:
A woman and her two daughters hustle into one of our local supermarkets to buy food items for their Thanksgiving dinner.
The tired mother stands in the long checkout line, after navigating the aisles and repelling her daughters’ incessant appeals for candy, snacks, and sugary beverages.
While standing behind them in line, I heard one of her children complain. “Mommy!” one girl said for everyone to hear, “Why is it taking so long? I want to go home.”
“We are almost there, honey. Everyone is doing what we are doing.”
“What do you mean?” the daughter shot back.
“Well, look around. People are purchasing food and other things to prepare a Thanksgiving dinner for their families. So we need to be patient.”
Unconvinced, the other girl spoke up to support her sister, “Mommy, can we go to the car and wait? We are tired.”
The woman said nothing to them, only stared at them in a way that only mothers do. And the girls quit hassling their mother.
Finally, the woman empties her cart and, after scanning her purchases, the cashier announces, “That will be $187.55.”
Instead of flashing a credit card, the lady burrows into her pocketbook and pulls out an assortment of crumpled bills. She stops a moment, then searches deeper into her pocketbook, trying to find more cash.
The woman leans closer to the plexiglass divider and whispers, “I, I need to put a few things back. I don’t have enough cash.”
The cashier wasn’t having it. Everyone in our line could hear her response.
“Ma’am, I am sorry. But I can’t have you hold up the line. If you don’t have enough cash to pay for your groceries, then please step to the side and take out the things you can’t buy.”
At that moment, for the folks in our line, the frazzled mother — wiping away tears of failure and embarrassment — was the center of all attention.
Some shoppers didn’t hesitate to voice their annoyance: “C’mon! What’s holding up the line?”
I didn’t have cash, but as I reached for my credit card, a good Samaritan slid past me and handed the woman two hundred dollars.
To everyone’s surprise, the lady refused the gift, grabbed her two girls, and hurriedly left the supermarket — with all her carefully chosen items on the counter beside the cashier.
Clearly, there is something about us humans that refuses to accept help. Maybe it’s our need to appear always in control and invulnerable. Maybe it’s pride or shame, or both combined. But I have seen it over and over — a person in desperate need, with their back against the wall, refusing to receive support.
What I found impressive was the spontaneous reaction from a few of us who jumped into action to help this lady and her kids.
Some wished for the storybook ending — the woman accepts the gift, purchases her food, and heads out the door to celebrate Thanksgiving with her children and others in her family. We would go home with a bona fide feel-good story to share. But it didn’t happen.
However, what I saw that day was a glimpse of the Kingdom of God in a local supermarket. Amid all that is wrong with our communities, there are individuals around us filled with light, people who stand ready to reflect God’s mercy and justice.
This event happened about ten days ago, and I still think about that family. How are they doing? Did they get the food they needed? What was their Thanksgiving like?
God only knows now.
On this second Sunday of Advent, we will read the richly picturesque words of Isaiah 11:1-10. He points to a coming leader who will establish a peaceable kingdom in which harmony, love, and righteousness replace the brokenness of our world.
Until that day arrives, the work continues. Tending the sick, feeding the hungry, sharing the good news of Christ, visiting the lonely and those in prison, and caring for those who are struggling to make ends meet.
I am grateful to be on this journey with you.
Pastor Raymond Hylton