People Watching

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

–          Matthew 25:34-40


It was Friday a week or two ago, grocery shopping day.  I had already done a lot of walking by the time we got to the grocery store.  I would do a lot of walking once we got home, carrying the groceries across an icy sidewalk, up icy steps to the house and back to the kitchen.  We can’t park in the alley, where we park outside the kitchen door.  Our driveway had snow that absorbed freezing rain.  It looks like an inch and a half of snow, but it is super-slick, hard as concrete, and solid ice.  It looks nice.  Between chiseling, shoveling, and all the salt I had, we parked on the street with a longer walk and higher climb to the house.


Okay, excuses offered, whether the cardiologist accepts or not is another matter.  When we got to the grocery store, I went to their bar to sit and read R. C. Sproul’s Romans.  I don’t drink beer, but the choice of seating is limited.  My wife prefers me to sit at the grocery store.  I slow her down if I tag along.


I did not get a lot of reading done.  There were too many people to watch.


This was about 11:00am.  There were the usual mothers with their children, many I could recognize from past trips to the grocery store.  There was the guy who exercises at his corner of the bar, taking sips of beer to reward himself for so many high knee kicks, push-ups (off the bar, not the floor), and yoga poses.


But one man attracted my attention.  He came near the bar twice.  I had been watching the lady baker take day-old cakes (mostly Bundt cakes) from a refrigerated display and replace them with fresh pastries, a variety, but no cakes.  Since her cart was almost full, she removed a few cakes, and then added a few pastries to the shelf.  (A reminder here, I have been a professional analyst for job-task analysis.  Watching efficient use of the available tools causes me to take extra notice of the work being done.)


About halfway through, a man came up to the cart while her back was turned.  He picked up an oblong plastic container off her cart and asked the baker about it.  They passed a few pleasant words back and forth, at least they both smiled.  (I was too noisy and too far away to hear.)  The man put the pastry under his arm and walked into the main part of the store, no shopping cart.


It did not take the baker long to finish her work, and she rolled her cart to the back of the store.


Within five or ten minutes (15 since taking the pastry), the old grey-haired man returned.  He had never gotten a cart and had only added a couple of salad items from the deli.  He looked at the pastries again.  He didn’t pick up any extra, but he placed his original pastry in the display onto another of the same type.  He then walked to the bar to purchase the two salad items before leaving the store.


I thought this to be very bizarre behavior.  I had three thoughts.  To borrow from a movie title:  The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.


The Good Thought:  He saw the baker working and took the pastry with kind words for her efforts.  This boosted her self-confidence, making her feel good.  While she works behind closed doors, she only sees what was not purchased and never interacts with the customers.  This could be a simple act of kindness.  He returned the pastry, because he is on a diet – thus the two salad items.


The Bad Thought:  Did he tamper with the pastry?  Did he go to the rat poison aisle and throw a few pellets into the honey bun?  Did he expose the pastry to the flu virus?  Will we hear about this on the news tomorrow? … Stop it!  You read too many mystery novels.  The package looks like it was never opened.  It still has the Valentine’s Day ribbon tied around it. (a week or two ago)


The Ugly Thought:  My younger son was once ServSafe certified.  The children in the photo are his children.  He is hypersensitive with his own cooking and with the cooking and cleaning habits of others.  The pastry was in a refrigerated display cabinet.  It might require refrigeration, but for over fifteen minutes, it spent all that time crammed into this man’s armpit.  (He was wearing a business suit, so – some separation.)  I have not taken a ServSafe class, but I am sure that the verdict would be – Throw the Pastry Away!


I pray the first is the only motive here.  It is not often that you see other people perform acts of kindness.  Showing God’s Love toward other people is not an option.  Jesus told us to do so.  Check the Scripture above.


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