It was an exciting day in pandemic life: we went to church for the first time in twelve weeks, then stopped by Home Depot. My husband, Nate, went in the store to get a few overpriced air filters, but when he put the car in drive to head home, it lurched forward with a jerk. We slowly maneuvered through the parking lot, something clearly wrong with the vehicle. Nate parked again, turned the car off, and popped the hood. The kids and I were waiting in the car, windows down, when I noticed a man walking to his truck nearby.
“I wonder what kind of week he’s had,” I thought. “What pain might he be carrying today?”
He glanced at my husband and walked over.
“Need a jump?” he asked.
“That’d be great. Thank you!” my husband replied.
The man pulled his truck in front of ours as Nate found the jumper cables. Since my window was down, I eavesdropped on their conversation—car talk about whether it was the battery or transmission or alternator.
“I know, man. I just had to replace my battery yesterday—had to call a friend to come pick me up because it died on me,” our new friend said.
Nate told him we had come from church, our first time back since in-person services re-opened.
The man nodded. “I haven’t been back yet,” he said. “My dad is a pastor . . .”
I watched my husband tell him their common ground, eager to see his response.
“My dad’s a pastor too,” Nate said.
The man’s eyebrows raised. “Oh, really?”
He went on to say his dad’s name was Lester, which is also Nate’s dad’s name (and it’s a rather uncommon name at that).
I don’t know if my literal jaw dropped, but my mental jaw was gaping open. Wow!
You see, our parking lot friend is African American, and my husband and I are Caucasian. I wondered what kind of week the man was having because the cries of racial injustice were surging from the recent deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor.
Nate and I had watched the movie “Just Mercy” the night before, and a disturbing scene, where two white police officers approached a black man’s car with hearts full of racist hate, was fresh on my mind.
What a contrast I experienced in our vehicle in the Home Depot parking lot.
I was grateful the man approached my husband and asked if we needed help. He didn’t have to.
And the moment is not lost on me.
Nate and our new friend could not look more different. Nate is tall and thin and white. Our friend is taller, larger, and black. Yet, in seven minutes, these two men discovered more in common with each other than the differences in their appearances.
1. Both had current car trouble.
2. Both had to get help with their car trouble.
3. Both are pastor’s sons.
4. Both go to church.
5. Both of their dads are named Les.
6. Both are men who shop at Home Depot.
Normally, I would leave this story in my private journal. But when current events and my own heart’s reflection collide with a Sunday morning experience so beautiful, I had to share it.
- Maybe it’s to remind you there is good happening in the world (even in ordinary places like parking lots).
- Maybe it’s to show you that we may (and often do) have more in common with people than we realize.
- Maybe it’s to point out that racial stereotypes skew our vision of seeing a person’s heart.
- Maybe it’s to celebrate that worshiping our Creator happens within our sanctuaries and when we show love to our neighbor wherever we are.
I experienced God’s presence in a parking lot. And you can too: keep your eyes and heart open to see God’s presence today.
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