I pulled my cart up to the register. I hastily unloaded my dollar items onto the moving black belt. I noticed I had too many. I shifted the phone on my shoulder, as I listened to my friend. I checked the time. I picked up the toy Judah had thrown – again – this time placing it in my purse. I hushed his cries, reaching in his diaper bag to hand him a snack. Food makes everything better.
The cashier began scanning my items, placing them in bags. I noticed her then. I noticed her round, protruding front and her swollen fingers. I felt my heart twinge in compassion as I remembered the discomfort of those days. I noticed her face. Her eyebrows close together in concentration, the breathing in and out through her mouth. I noticed the slow motion of her hand as she hovered the items over the scanner, her other hand cradling her stomach. Everything slowed down in that busy moment and I stopped listening to my friend talking in my ear.
“Are you having a contraction?” I asked her.
Startled, she looked up at me. “I don’t know, but I’m having pains.”
“How far along are you?” I continued prying.
“39 weeks tomorrow,” she answered through gritted teeth.
“Is this your first baby?” I noticed her intake of breath.
“Yes. But he’s not supposed to come until next week though, so I think I’ll be ok.”
“Babies don’t always pay attention to due dates, sweetie. You look like you are in labor to me, I think you should sit down.”
The mother came out in me then and I apologized to her for that. But it looked like she needed a mother in that moment. After prodding her with more labor-questions, I told her I thought she needed to at least go see her doctor. She insisted she had to work and that the baby wasn’t coming for a few more days. As she finished up my transaction, I realized I needed some reinforcements.
I decided to take my items to my car and find someone else who might be able to help.
Another employee was walking into the store as I was walking out. I asked her if she knew the girl at the register. She said yes, that they were friends. Relieved, I placed my hand on her arm and told her that I believed her friend was in labor and needed to go to the hospital. At this, her eyes grew rather large.
I said, “We mothers don’t always take the best care of ourselves, and sometimes we need a friend to stand up for us, someone who will take care of us. Will you be that friend? Maybe you could call her boss to see if she could get the afternoon off.”
I ended up leaving the store, feeling certain her friend would help her. I prayed for that very young, first time mother. How scared she must have been.
As I drove away I wondered… How often do I take notice of those who are in pain living and breathing around me?
My life is so busy. My world, all consuming. And pain-bearers are not always so obvious.
We don’t often walk through life with our wounds gaping open for everyone to notice. There are not always signs as there were with that heavily laden mother. Sometimes there are smiles when there should be frowns. Sometimes there is outward laughter when there is inward weeping. Sometimes there’s a joke, when underneath there is really paralyzing fear. Sometimes the pain is so deep and the walls so high and their hair so perfect, we are shocked when it all caves in.
But should we be shocked? Should we?
We are all broken. Every. Last. Oneofus.
The cashier, the teller, the doctor, the nurse, the pastor, the librarian, the teacher, the mother, the father, the child, the friend.
Taking notice doesn’t always equal major interruption. It can simple mean choosing compassion instead of frustration. Slowing down instead of pushing through. Kind words instead of a harsh tone. A smile. A touch. A hug that lasts longer than a second.
1 Corinthians 13 tells us, if we have and do and be all these things, but do not have love, we have nothing.
Jesus took notice. He took notice of those who were invisible to most. He saw through the mask, the shield, the disease, the age. He noticed their pain while the crowds pressed in. He stopped, he reached out, he touched their brokenness, he healed. He was busy and got tired. He tried to escape to solitude at times and yet they still came. They still pressed in upon him, touching and pulling and taking. And he gave. So freely. He gave everything.
That was why he came. To give. To take notice. To be interrupted. To stop. To care. To love. To heal. To die.
We have been called to be “Jesus with skin on”. To be his hands. His feet. His arms.
“I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me. ” (Matthew 25:40)
We just have no idea what people are going through. Where they are in life. What they need. What they might be feeling.
The woman in front of you taking forever at the check-out, might still be in a fog of grief due to her miscarriage. The person driving slow in the fast lane might be distracted because of a lost job. The mother lashing out at her kid in Wal-Mart might be drowning in a difficult marriage.
We just will never know. But Jesus knows. And He puts his people in these places at just these times that we might be his hands, his feet, his smile and tender voice.
This is a hard task in this busy world we live in. Our agendas rule and our witness wanes. Our judgments mislead and we blindly follow. Our insecurities take charge and our strong wills yield to them. But if we push through these things and the isolation we prefer, asking for eyes to see, we might just make a difference in someone else’s life.
So next time you pass me and I’m looking lost. Take notice and put your arm around me, cause I’m sure I could use a hug too.