‘Walk Across the Room’ in a Grocery Store

Published 9:20 am Thursday, November 30, 2017

This quote from a book by Bill Hybels challenged me and our church to pay more attention to the people we interact with.

We’re learning as a church how to step outside our zone of comfort and meet new people, hear more stories and be alert for opportunities to make an eternal difference. One way, I challenged myself to “Walk Across the Room” was by working a few days in a local grocery store. My goal was to work in another environment and see how I could better practice on Monday what I preach on Sunday.

My first task was stocking candy. Sounds easy enough but it wasn’t. Do you have any idea how many various kinds, colors and brands of candy there are? I found myself staring up and down a long grocery aisle trying desperately to figure out where each product belonged. The smells were intoxicating and hunger inducing. I had to forcibly remind myself to arrange them neatly without eating anything.

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I soon realized people in every work environment deal with problems and issues. One employee was experiencing a divorce, another’s husband was disabled. The manager acted as supervisor and counselor for many of her employees. She was careful but effective while also being a spiritual advisor for her employees. She was a living example of “Walk Across the Room” witnessing.

“I need to share the importance of our daily willingness to ‘walk across the room’ with our church.” I thought to myself. Then the truth hit. “I need to practice my daily witness too.”

Jesus said: “You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it useful again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless. You are the light of the world — like a city on a mountain, glowing in the night for all to see. Don’t hide your light under a basket! Instead, put it on a stand and let it shine for all. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”

• You are salt adding flavor and taste and zest to everything…

• But if the salt isn’t used, the flavor is lost. It will be thrown out.

• You are light, lighting up the room, the community, the world.

• But don’t hide that light under a basket…. What a waste.

Salt and Light is the Biblical reminder of what it means to, “Walk Across the Room.” There are other benefits too.

A study revealed that happier people live 35 percent longer. Kindness is your ticket to health and happiness. It’s the price of admission to an exciting world filled with greater purpose and contentment. You hold the ticket in your hand. It’s up to you whether you use it.

Being salt and light, “walking across the room” helps others and is our ticket to happiness.

One employee, assigned to train me, patiently taught how to properly stock candy and other items. She soon discovered my occupation and joked about seeing a preacher do real work. She mentioned a husband who was ill and on disability. I promised to pray for him.

Early the next day, she approached and asked, “Was I serious about praying for her husband?” She then told more details of issues with emphysema, doctors and health insurance. There was a pause. I don’t normally feel led to pray for people in a crowded grocery store but I asked: “Can I pray for you now?”

With tears flowing, she nodded and whispered, “Please.”

In the candy aisle of a busy grocery store, two people quietly prayed for God’s healing touch. She thanked me and went on with her work. Not much was said after that but the manager gave occasional updates and I would check in on her occasionally.

Months later, her husband died. At the funeral, she started crying and spoke of feeling so overwhelmed she was prepared to quit. But after our prayer and the continued support received from the store manager and other employees, she found courage to stay through the final days of her husband’s illness.

Will every “Walk Across the Room” be so dramatic? No, but your willingness to trust God and take those first steps will make a difference and some of those encounters will be life-changing. A willingness to “Take a Walk Across the Room” is the best way I know to describe what it means to be the church in action.

Wherever you go, God is giving you the opportunity to cross the room and make an eternal difference. Take that walk today.

REV. LARRY E. DAVIES can be reached at larrydavies@sowingseedsoffaith.com.