At about this time a couple of years ago, I was baking the box of homemade chocolate chip cookies that my brothers in law request for Christmas each year. It was the one time I miscalculated the amount of butter and was short half a pound. Even if it is the recipe from the side of the chocolate chips bag, it’s the only item on their wish list, and I’m happy to deliver… even when means braving the swarm of last-minute bakers at the grocery store.
I darted out, parked, and started into the store – one person in a sea of people. Busy shoppers rushed down the aisles, swinging around full carts of groceries like an old episode of Supermarket Sweep.
Except for one man. He was elderly, likely in his late 80s or early 90s, and standing like a statue. He was wearing a coat that looked a size too big, a knit hat with his ears sticking out, and leaning heavily on his cane. The options for milk were apparently overwhelming.
Concerned, I pretended to need something in a nearby bin, and watched… and he didn’t move. It dawned on me that he wasn’t reading labels: he was confused.
“Excuse me? Hi there! Is there something I can help you find?”
He turned his head slowly. “Oh, hi,” he said. “I’m looking for milk but I can’t remember what kind I get. My son is outside and I don’t usually shop at this store. Everything is different. It’s so big in here.”
“Well, let me see if I can help.” I moved next to him to look with him.
“It’s blue, I think.”
“Hm, is it regular 2% milk?”
“Yes, yes I think so.”
I opened the cooler door, grabbed a carton of 2% milk from the shelf, and showed him. “Does this seem right?”
He leaned forward a touch, but not enough to take balance off his cane.
“Yes, 2%. That looks right.”
As I was about to hand him the milk, I realized that the basket of groceries he had in his hands likely weighed about as much as he did.
“Can I carry this up to the cashier for you?”
“Oh would you? Thank you so much. That’s very kind.”
“Absolutely,” I said.
We walked at a shuffled pace as I heard about his son, his adventure to find the milk bunker, and how much he appreciated my help.
“You’re very welcome,” I said, as I settled the milk on the conveyor belt. “You have a lovely day.”
I turned and headed for the butter again.
“Excuse me?” A woman stopped me with a smile. “I saw what you did back there. I heard your whole conversation. The world needs more people like you. I work in long-term care, and these folks are often overlooked.”
I never forgot her words, and I never forgot the man in front of the milk. How often do we feel overlooked, by our peers, family members, or colleagues?
I don’t know about you, but I feel overlooked all the time. I find myself staring into shop windows, suddenly noticing the trace of my reflection in the glass, and thinking, “That’s how I feel. Invisible. Overlooked. Unseen.”
In a world that rushes around us faster and faster by the minute, it’s easy for us to forget that our Father always sees us. He’s not rushing around us, wondering why we can’t figure things out, get it together, or remember which milk to buy.
He sees us, and stands with us, as we peer ahead at what feels impossible and overwhelming.
As this holiday season approaches, and we feel stretched, rushed, overlooked, or unseen, may we remember that the God who poured breath into our lungs, and life into our hearts, sees us. May we lean heavily on Him as we stare at the daunting tasks in front of us – the ones that make us feel small and confused – and know that we are loved in stillness by the One Who is outside of time.