This week I stumbled on a video published this summer about a guy who goes to a local grocery store and surprises customers by paying for their groceries. The video portrays a series of about ten encounters. The mystery man, walks up to the customer, looks at the total due on the cash register, gives the amount to the cashier, and walks off. He doesn’t engage in conversation. He pats a few people on the back, telling them to have a good day. For the few people who ask him why, his response is, “God is good.” The conversations that happen between the customers and the cashier are incredible. Most end up having a conversation about God. Many are shocked, some laugh, and several cry.
What I found most fascinating about the piece is who the man helps. The first few customers looked like they could use the help – of course I say that recognizing my own stereotypes about class and race. But one customer surprised me. He was a white male, who looked middle-class, without much wear and tear. When the mystery giver left, the man and the cashier had a conversation. He confesses how nice the gesture was, especially considering he was just mugged the week before. As they talk further, he confesses that he was held at gun point in front of his home.
What shook me up about the encounter were my own assumptions. There have been several times at stores when I noticed someone using their WIC voucher or EBT card and could sense the tension as they managed how much money they had to spend. It makes perfect sense to help someone like that. But what does it mean to help others: those whose need is not obvious to us? How often do I cut short God’s work when my assumptions get in the way of how and when I help? What this mystery giver was giving was not necessarily charity per se. What he was giving was a chance to have an encounter with God. The customers received a variety of things that day – a lightened spirit through the gift of generosity, a desire to share the gift with others (one customer actually said, “I’m going to do that for someone else!”), and a deep and profound encounter with God – a God that they could only see through the vehicle of the giver. In essence, this giver became the hands and feet of Jesus.
I’m not sure this video is calling me to go out and do the exact same thing. But what the video is inviting me to do is to see my brothers and sisters through the eyes of Christ. To honor those around me who are probably going through things I know nothing about, who may be in a dark place, or who may actually have more to give me than I have to give them. At St. Margaret’s, we already know there are needs in our community – in fact, we helped four families this month purchase the school supplies they needed to send their children back to school. But there are needs beyond financial – there are needs for people to experience love and to experience our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Those are things that they may not experience unless we are willing to offer those gifts. How might you show forth God’s love and light this week?