Last week my church had our annual Generations conference and one of the speakers, Paul Scanlon from England, spoke on a simple concept that had profound impact for me.
“Just notice people and you will reach them,” he said.
Paul shared a Starbucks story of how he commented on the mohawk of the lady serving him. They engaged in conversation and she learned, after asking what he did, that he was in the ministry. He was the first pastor to ever notice or comment on it. She felt noticed, appreciated and like someone out there, whom she didn’t expect would, saw her. Commenting on someone’s hair or shoes can open doors to relationships in a greater scope than simply trying to pound someone over the head with your beliefs ever will. Duh. As he talked I remembered a moment a couple days earlier …
I was in the grocery store grabbing what I could before the business of the week continued. Grocery carts were bumping and people were scurrying, likely unaware of the people around them. I know I for one am usually on a focused mission when I grocery shop, as it’s not really my favourite task. This day however I believe destiny attempted to weave into my chaos and force me to pause, and I am afraid to say I think I missed the moment and the potential impact it could’ve held.
As I grabbed milk and tried to pull my cart out of the way to the side, an older gentleman, whom in my presumption was low-income and appeared “homeless” (whatever that means) and I nearly collided. I apologized for my big cart and he clutched tighter the two items in his hands, smiled, and let me have the right of way. I cordially thanked him. I thought nothing of it until I was in another aisle moments later, scanning the rice cakes, and who should I nearly hit again but this kind-looking homeless man.
I said “We keep running into each other!”
As he passed by me, he looked back and smiled with the look of “You noticed me.” More of a question than a statement I would say. I fumbled through some courteous Canadian jargon, we smiled, and went our separate ways.
I had a chance right there to engage with another human being who, like everyone else on planet earth, is asking “do you notice me?” We fight invisibility on a daily basis be it the clothes we wear, the car we drive, or the way we must have our story be heard around the water cooler. We, like this kind gentleman in the grocery aisle, are always asking “do you care enough to stop and notice me?”
So as Paul Scanlon talked last week about his quest for reaching people simply by noticing them and the details of their lives, my thoughts turned to this kind man, who for a moment I did notice. Who, for a greater moment, I could’ve reached out to with love that went beyond Canadian courtesy.
God, forgive me for just being busy.