Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Wednesday in the Word: Cookies, Ms. St. John?

Thanksgiving Countdown...1 day!!!

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and many of you will be hitting the sales beginning at midnight lasting through the weekend. This is a great story from Catherine that gives us a fresh perspective to put our mission mindedness aside and pay close attention that our words and actions exhibit love.

Everyone has mother-in-law stories – mine happen to be ones that have taught me to be a better person. Shopping with my mother in law is an experience in itself – the first time we graced the mall together I was amazed that she seemed to know EVERYONE. So many employees in so many stores…surely she’s a shopaholic? It took me about 3 mall visits to figure out the secret and it wasn’t due to endless shopping.

I have in the past, been the type of shopper to view the store employee as someone there to serve me – I am the customer. I am always right. I am providing them job security by shopping there. It was about me. I buy something, perhaps smile and walk out the door and that was it. Me. Me. Me.

But there’s more to a retail experience than that and it was due to mother-in-law observations that have caused me to look at a purchase a bit differently. It’s walking past a cosmetic counter that she stops to check on a lady’s family member. It’s stopping by her favorite clothing stores to check on an employee’s well being. Or simply, genuinely asking someone how they are as she’s handing them her debit card and then telling them she hoped they had a great day, that the remaining hours of them working passed quickly and (where appropriate) that she’d be praying for them. People are transformed by her kindness.

My favorite story is this: It was a very very special occasion and she needed a pair of new pumps. Not normally one to shop in St. John, she went in and fell in love with a pair and made the purchase. After getting them home and comparing them to her outfit and doing a quick fashion runway action on the carpet, it was evident the shoes weren’t right. Within the next few days she went back to return them. The sales woman was NOT pleased. She was curt, rude and absolutely crushed my mother in law with her berating behavior. At this point, I would have reminded the woman of her place and perhaps even placed a call to her manager. I can’t stand being talked down to.

My mother in law left the store and went home and made a massive batch of chocolate chip cookies and marched them right back to the lady in St. John. She told her that she was sorry she appeared to be having a bad day and wanted to brighten it by baking her cookies. After all but picking herself up off the floor, the dumbfounded sales woman accepted the cookies and thanked her. To this day (after several years), when she sees her walking past the store, the sales woman will come out, say hello and see how my mother in law is doing. A complete kindness makeover.

I’ve adopted these practices over the years and while I haven’t made St. John cookies for anyone (yet), I do check on my Chocolatier at Godiva as he’s giving me my free truffle each month, as he initially seemed annoyed that I didn’t buy anything. Now he tells me about the cold he caught from his kids. I make sure to give a smile and let the clerks know I appreciate their help. I wish them a Merry Christmas. I take more time than I used to and come away from the harried shopping experience with a better feeling than before.

We’re entering a season of gift buying and giving and many of the clerks are working extended holiday hours because they need their jobs. I’m sure they would rather be in bed than greeting me at Best Buy on Black Friday….or slicing salami and cheese samples at Hickory Farms at 9pm on a weeknight. Take a little extra care with your purchases and clerk interactions this year – see it as a ministry mission rather than just a checklist for toys, clothes and barbeque grill sets. Trust me, the effort will be worth your while.

Happy Thanksgiving!



Imagining what Ms. St. John may have felt upon receiving her undeserved gift of love could be an example of the surprise David articulated about receiving our Father's love. I love the visual in this passage from the Message along with Catherine's reminder that we are vessels to display that same love which is mighty to save.

But me he caught—reached all the way
from sky to sea; he pulled me out
Of that ocean of hate, that enemy chaos,
the void in which I was drowning.
They hit me when I was down,
but God stuck by me.
He stood me up on a wide-open field;
I stood there saved—surprised to be loved!

2 Samuel 17-20