When Strangers are Kind

It was pouring.

(photo credit to Ben Rumeau)

Such that by the time I crossed the three (small) parking lots between Panera and Aldi, my shoes were soggy and squeaking and my pants were drenched well above my knees.  I went past all of the people who were watching the rain pound down from the shelter of the overhang and zipped through the aisles to grab my two bags of oranges and two bags of carrots and hamburger buns.  (See?  I did buy something that wasn't orange!)

I checked out, loaded up my trusty backpack, and still had about twenty minutes before my bus was due.  I may be willing to wade through a embryonic flood zone to get groceries, but I'm not quite so masochistic to want to stand in chilly rain for twenty minutes waiting for a bus.  Particularly when it's the type of rain that seems to be determined to ignore my umbrella and soak me anyway.  So I took a seat on the bagging counter.  (Don't judge me too harshly.  Several other people were doing the same thing.)  I remembered that I still had half of a sandwich and pulled it out to finish it in the dry store before venturing back outside.

As I sat there, munching my sandwich and listening to the pounding rain, one of the cashiers came out of their break room.  Over the past year, I've gotten to semi-know a few of the cashiers, since I'm in Aldi a few times a week.  We said hi and discussed the crazy cloudburst and she asked if I was walking home or what, since I was obviously waiting.  When I said I was taking the bus, she asked where I lived.

The lady (mid-60's?) who was at the counter next to me, bagging her groceries, looked up when I said and asked where exactly, so I told her which apartments.

After a moment, she said, "Oh, I'm going to the bank on the corner up there anyway-- if you'd like a ride with me, you're more than welcome."

Let's pause to consider this offer and how I answered.  My options:

1) Wait in Aldi till the rain stopped and then catch the next bus.  Since that was anyone's guess, there was no way I was planning to just chill there.

2)  Go outside and wait for the bus and get more drenched.  Hope that the bus came more or less on time.  Ride the bus, get off at the bank, and then walk back to the apartment.

3)  Ride with this lady, maybe have an interesting conversation, and walk back from the bank.

Any guesses?

Of course I chose option 3.

As she started driving, we made small talk.  She told me what town she lived in and I admitted that I had no idea where that was, I've only lived here for a year.  Yeah, I moved here.... from China.

Very interesting, she said, and I could hear wheels spinning in her head.  But you're not from China originally...? she asked after a minute.

So then we talked about Pennsylvania and it turns out that her husband went to college there and knows a lot of people in the town where I went to college.  We chatted about teaching because she was a teacher too and about what she's keeping busy with now in retirement.  She asked me again where I live and I told her, and she started telling me about a woman who her church is helping who lives right around there.  The conversation spun around to persecution in the Middle East and I wondered how it got there, why it got there.

I hadn't mentioned that I'm a Christian.  I said I was teaching English in China.  I had said where I went to college, so maybe she knew it's a Christian school.  I'm also wearing a star of David necklace, so maybe that was a clue?  But I'm not sure.

We talked about world events, about the role of US in international politics... and then we were to my apartment.

"My name's Joyce," she told me as I get ready to hop out of the car with my backpack.

"I'm Hannah," I told her, and thanked her again.

As I walked off and she pulled away, my heart was singing.  It makes me so happy when people are kind, and it makes me even happier when I find Christians being kind to strangers.

Years ago, my mother used to say to me, she'd say, "In this world, Elwood, you must be --" she always called me Elwood -- "In this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant." Well for years I was smart.  I recommend pleasant.  You may quote me.{Jimmy Stewart in Harvey}

Isn't it funny how God doesn't say that the world will know us by our intelligence?  By how smart we are, how quickly we can respond with witty comebacks that will make everyone laugh, by how many facts we know?

Instead it's by our love.  How we love one another, how we reach out to others in loving ways that simply don't make sense.

Like being kind enough to take the drenched stranger in Aldi home.


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