As most of you probably know, the Friday after Thanksgiving is known as Black Friday. The retailers all run their special door busters, there are deals everywhere, and if you live in a northern climate you can even get free frostbite waiting in line for the store to open so you can get the latest most popular DVD for $5. Well, Kim likes Black Friday. Correction, she will admit that it like an addiction for her. Anyone that talks to her for more than five minutes will come to the proper conclusion that she is a deal hound. Like the Proverbs 31 woman, she has not only examined the field she is purchasing, she has done comparison shopping, waited for it to go on clearance, and will buy it with coupon in hand and a rebate waiting to be filled out at home. I am honestly very thankful that God has blessed me with such a frugal wife. For a few years now, she and I have gone shopping on Black Friday. We normally celebrate Thanksgiving in Illinois with her family and since the larger chain stores are conveniently located we spend Thursday night there and wake up early to shop. Now we are not those people that are sitting in the parking lot at 3:00AM waiting for the latest "I need that". No, Kim very carefully examines the ads, makes a detailed list, and we shop for items that should be in large supply.
Now I must admit that the first time we tried this I came up with a word of the day. Moron. That was it. I kept muttering it under my breath, referring of course to those around me, not my wife. I was so irritated by everyone who couldn't figure out how to park a car, move a cart, or realize that "Yes, you have finally reached the register and this process would go quicker for everyone behind you if you were actually ready to pay for the mound of stuff in your cart and no, you should not be allowed to add the cheese and sausage log sale item that is next to the cash register after you have already paid!" Moron. The word of the day worked fairly well for me until we were driving back to Wisconsin that evening and someone cut me off and from the back seat I heard a child's voice say, "Moron."
Last year something significant happened while we were out. We had finished our shopping for the morning and went to Panera's for lunch. They were packed, but we were able to find a small cafe table near the registers. As we ate our food, they had a steady stream of customers coming in, but were not rushed. Located where we were, we could hear people ordering and some of the conversation between the cashiers as they waited for more customers. Then the significant took place. A lady, by herself, approached the ordering area and place her order. She was late 30's, early 40's and looked like almost every other person in the place. The cashier that took the lady's order was probably in her early 20's and was the same cashier that had taken ours. As the lady finished placing her order, the following conversation took place.
The lady asked, "So, were you able to get any shopping done for Christmas?"
The cashier replied, "I picked up a few things for my son. It is all about him anyway."
"Did you find anything for yourself. Certainly there was something you saw that you wanted," the lady asked.
"No. It is really just about my son. I have gotten everything I need for him," said the cashier.
"May I see your hand?" asked the lady.
The cashier obviously feeling awkward stuck out her hand. The lady placed one of her hands on top of the girl's and another below as she held her hand and leaned in towards her.
"You are important," she said. "Take care of yourself. This is for you and not for anyone else."
The lady suddenly let go of the girl's hand and walked away. She picked up her food and left the building.
The young cashier had a look of "that was weird" on her face until she opened up her hand. There, in her palm, was at least one one hundred dollar bill. Her face melted into tears and she began to sob uncontrollably.
There, in Panera's, was grace. Outwardly happy, seemingly content, the young mother tasted grace. It was something to be that near to grace, to almost feel the experience. To be close enough to hear the conversation, to see the demeanor change from one of apprehension to complete emotional release. And I thought, how have I acted today? Did I mutter "moron" at those around me, treat them as obliviously as I normally did? Why? Did I not claim to have the Spirit of Christ in me? While I don't have money to give away, could I not have treated those around me with grace? Couldn't I greet with a smile, graciously help those around me, and show grace in me? I remember this story as we enter into this season of consumerism and me first attitudes. May we be reminded of the grace that we have been given and show that grace to those around us through our very words and actions.