It was hot one recent Wednesday at Iglesia Presbiteriana Emanuel. We were all working hard. The line of cars seemed endless, the sun relentless. The humidity made it feel as if we were living inside a very sweaty terrarium!
I slipped in to cover for Christina to watch the parking lot entrance while she took a brief break for water and shade. This day was a slough; we had to take turns or we wouldn’t make it!
At the parking lot entrance every car is asked, “Baul listo?” “Is your trunk ready?”
A ready trunk means that it can be popped open to receive groceries that has taken many months of effort to grow, harvest, gather, sort, and bag so this team of youth, college students, and some not-so-youthful adults can place them in it at the end of the parking lot.
I was just doing my job when I noticed the woman in the white truck was crying. I was not very in touch with my own or anyone else’s feelings at that point. We were in the “will-this-ever-end” arc of our weekly shift pushing cars through – a large, sweaty, tired bucket brigade of grocery delivery that makes one feel a bit like a robot. But the woman’s crest-fallen, tearing face yanked me back to our original purpose.
“Are you okay?” I asked motioning her to roll down her window.
Initially she waved me away.
“I’m a pastor,” I persisted. “Roll down your window.”
She relented then and rolled her window down.
“What’s wrong?” I pried. “Did you get some bad news?”
I couldn’t see the obvious. That’s when she crumbled.
“No,” she said, shaking her head and tearing up even more.
“It’s not that. . .it’s that . . . I just . . .I never thought I’d be in a line like this.”
I was hot and tired. We all were. I knew that for her part, she had gotten into that line for groceries well over two hours before she ever got to the point where I would ask her “Baul listo?” Creeping along in that snaking 300+ car line she’d had a lot of time to think about it all, time to let everything sink in.
The grace in it was that her letting it sink in allowed me to see the glory of her side of the line in a way I hadn’t before. For she needed something and – despite its clear difficulty for her – she had gathered the courage, the strength, the light, the trusting faith to get in line for it. She had gotten in line for God’s grace in the form of groceries, and it would not be denied her. And she wasn’t the only one; there were more than 300 others like her that day.
COVID-19 has put us all in lines we never thought we’d be in. On one side and the other we are all called into work that honors our common humanity — sacred work where everyone must be ready to open their trunks, to find the grace to take or to give as we are in need and as we are able. It’s true always, but every Wednesday now, I am reminded anew.