There I was watching this tray of delicious food fall to the ground in complete slow motion. This humiliating moment sponsored by motherhood and sheer exhaustion. I was mortified. Tears brimmed my eyes as I stood there, mouth agape, wondering how to escape this moment with the least amount of humiliation as possible.
It did not help that the restaurant was full. It did not help that I was at the front of a very long line and had just paid for my meal. It did not help that my two-year-old was already running off in a completely different direction. How I wanted to be like my two-year-old, running away and completely oblivious to the disaster that had befallen our lunch.
I worked quietly and with great shame to clean up the mess of food that had fallen to the ground. I was so unsure of what to do but had already started contemplating my food-less exit. It was in this moment of embarrassment that something profound happened. In the middle of this soon-to-be-forgotten moment, my cashier showed me incredible kindness. Her kindness was quiet, possibly unnoticed by the world around us, but it had touched me so deeply.
I can hardly recall the minute details of this experience. I remember the biggies: I remember the food falling in slow motion. I remember picking up chow mein noodles as my stomach growled. I remember wishing I was shoveling noodles into my mouth from a clean plate, rather than shoveling noodles onto the plate that was destined for the garbage can. I remember the humiliation I felt, the exhaustion of the moment, and how completely unhelpful two-year-olds truly are. But what I remember the most was the kindness of this woman who was a complete stranger to me.
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She looked at me with a comforting glance as she prepared my meal all over again. She quietly put it together without uttering a single word. She showed me so much grace and kindness in this moment that four years later it still brings tears to my eyes. In the middle of the chaos around us, God prepared a refuge for my embarrassed heart in the kindness of this woman’s eyes and actions. He showed me kindness and a peace to cling to. In this moment, I was not looking for the nearest exit, but the nearest table. Her kindness has encouraged me to sit down and enjoy this delicious meal. Her kindness had stopped my feet from running and called for me to rest and relax.
There are so many other ways that this woman could have handled my embarrassed and vulnerable heart. She could have chosen to utter words of judgment. She could have put my humiliation further on display for the whole restaurant to see. Her actions, words, and attitude could have all proven to be a huge discouragement to me. Yet, she showed grace. She showed kindness. Her simple, wordless action of putting my meal together a second time showed an incredible amount of grace. Wordlessly she did not add to my embarrassment, but she relieved it. Her kindness prepared a table of rest and nourishment for myself and my child.
Do we treat those around us with the same grace and kindness? When sin comes to light, do we flaunt it and add humiliation to an already vulnerable heart? Do our words build others up or do they tear down, discourage, or humiliate? Do our words and actions cause vulnerable hearts to flee or to rest and relax?
Compassion is kindness in action. Compassion slowed my fleeing feet and showed me a beautiful refuge where I could relax. This refuge protected me from embarrassment and allowed me to rest. Is that not what we, as representatives of Christ, should be to our neighbors?
Let us choose today to respond in kindness and act as a refuge.