An Encounter – Devotional Diva Christmas 2020

Editor’s Note: This is a guest story by veteran Diva author Sheila Lloyd. Sheila submitted this story last year, pre-COVID. It didn’t end up making it in last year’s series, but I’m so glad to use it this year to kick off our 2020 Diva Christmas series! Thanks, Sheila!

How many times in the hustle and bustle of this crazy world do we have an opportunity to see purity?  When do we truly have a moment to engage in genuine human kindness and interaction?

These are questions I reflected upon after an encounter yesterday on Black Friday. (Side note: why in the world do we call it black Friday?! To me, Thanksgiving is such a lovely holiday— One which is focused on being grateful for the blessings God has given us in a cornucopia of ways, including friends and family. Together around the table over a delicious meal, we feast on His goodness, which reminds me of James 1:17, “Every good & perfect gift is from above.” The Lord has truly blessed us! But Thanksgiving doesn’t get much press anymore. I suspect because it’s difficult to commercialize…except of course for the overflowing carts of food.)

Well back to my story.  I was not doing any kind of Black Friday shopping. I had a doctor appointment in the morning and needed to return one item, which took me into the Walmart plaza. Like a herd of sheep, the two lanes of turning traffic headed left at the light, passed the usual person panhandling at the corner, passed the bustling Cracker Barrel with his lobby filled to the brim with holiday enticements, and found a parking spot near the Walmart pharmacy entrance. I was then approached by a man who had a booth selling T-shirts in support of a Christian drug/rehab program. I listened to his appeal, accepted the flyer, and proceeded  inside to the customer service desk. That was amazingly easy (for once!) so I turned to walk back outside.

 In front of me, I noticed an old man leaving heavily on a cart. He was having extreme difficulty walking, but I didn’t see his face. I stopped to inspect a potential present for my son and then headed back outside. The old man was now sitting on a bench in the entrance lobby area. Perhaps he noticed my T-shirt with our church’s name and the cross in the logo. Perhaps I seemed approachable. Perhaps I was just walking slowly enough to hear him. 

It took me a moment to understand what he was asking. His speech was slurred and halting—but not because of drunkenness or drugs—because of a genuine physical disability. He may have had cerebral palsy, or perhaps he’d had a stroke. Looking to be in his mid-60s, he had a rather small stature, grayish white hair and beard. And blue eyes! It was the eyes that got me.

Realizing he was speaking to me, I turned toward him and noticed he was holding out a dollar bill. I didn’t understand at first. I had some some cash wadded up in my hand to give to the drug rehab place out front when I walked out. Was he trying to ask me for money?  So I went closer and listened again. He looked right in my eyes, held out the dollar bill and asked if I would get him an orange soda.  Finally, I processed the information and realized there was a soda machine on the other side of the entrance area. I clarified which one he wanted and cheerfully said, “Absolutely!l”  Taking the few short steps to the machine, I acquired the soda with the 2 quarters as change and walked back to him.

He smiled and gently held out his hands. Seeing his hands outstretched toward me gave me pause. I wanted to make sure he would be able to hold onto the can because both hands were clearly not 100% functional. I slowly and gently placed it closer to his hands and waited until I knew he could grasp it.  Suddenly, I imagined those hands trying to flip open the tab and quickly offered, “Would you like me to open it for you?” And I did.

 I gave it back to him and bent down closer. I was probably 18 inches from his face asking if he would like a cup or if he would like me to get him a straw. He declined but thanked me again and once more look directly into my eyes….The kindness, gentleness, peace and purity I saw in his eyes almost made me weep on the spot! A ticker tape parade of questions danced through my mind in a mere second: Who is he? Does he live alone? How did he get here? I notice his vest is a little bit stained, is he being taken care of? Could this be an angel? Lord, is there anything else you want me to say? Do I need to offer to take him home? How beautiful this man’s eyes are!

After another split-second telling him he was most welcome and saying “God bless you,” I walked out the doors I had entered moments before. I had nothing in my hands as I had returned the item I carried in and not bought anything else. I don’t think he had anything in his cart either. That alone struck me as interesting, particularly on Black Friday.

In the midst of all the hustle and bustle, all the commercialism trying to tell us what the meaning of Christmas is with all the gifts and twinkly lights, bells and bobbles, the sales gimmicks, wish lists, the latest toys and myriad of electronic “must haves,” two human beings connected over $.50 can of soda and two minutes in a Walmart entry.  Mere seconds, but I thought of him on and off the rest of the day. Even now as I write this I’m brought to tears.

I did not feel led to say anything else to him; I did not preach the gospel. Actually it really seemed that I didn’t need to. I think he was well aware.

I was incredibly humbled and thankful for the opportunity to be used to bless him in this small way. Yes, the encounter also filled me with gratitude for healthy limbs, ability to move and walk, a nice car to jump into…but most of all I was just thankful for the peace I saw in his eyes, the tenderness I heard in his voice and the opportunity to show kindness. And yet, I feel as though I am the one who received a gift.

Sheila Lloyd is learning to live in freedom through Jesus Christ! Her vocational life has included teaching private piano lessons, writing, acting in and producing musical dramas, spearheading women’s retreats and other ministry outreach events, composing music, leading worship across the country, teaching Bible studies and mentoring. Shelia has two grown sons, one of whom has special needs. She has been married to her high school sweetheart, Brian, since 1990.  The couple experienced growth on the cutting edge of faith as Brian suffered a massive rehabilitating stroke in 2014. They published a book sharing God‘s powerful hand in the situation titled, It’s OK! I Had a Stroke. It was released on Amazon and Barnes and Noble May 2019. Website here. The couple currently shepherds a storefront church in Woodstock, VA.