It was a Saturday morning, and I had gotten there early to beat the crowd, hopefully not running into anyone I knew. Sometimes I like to keep to myself when I do my shopping because I’ve worn my worst pair of jeans, I have minimal make-up on that was put on in the dark, and I have a touch of social anxiety that kicks in at the grocery store for some reason.
I pulled into the parking lot, and there were already many cars there, so I parked in the middle of the lot, kind of far away from others, but not so far away that I’d have to walk a mile into the store. I was sure to make a mental note of where I parked.
As I sat in my car, gathering my list and coupons, I noticed an older gentleman pushing a cart around. He looked confused and I decided that he probably couldn’t find his car. I thought, “Oh, I hate it when that happens, but he’ll find it in a minute. I don’t have to get involved.” I fiddled more with my things, and still he walked, turning this way and that. Poor guy, but I don’t want to help him! I don’t want to talk to anyone. I just want to run in there, grab a can of corned beef hash and orthotic insoles and be on my way. Please, old man, find your car, and soon. Don’t involve me in this escapade.
I reached for my door handle, and before I could open the door, the man walked right by my window, an uncomfortable inch or two away from me. I thought, “Weird! He was eerily close to my car! He was over there, now he’s over here, and he’s still looking for his car! Wonderful, it looks like Someone wants me to help this guy.”
I got out of my car, put my keys in my coat pocket, stalled for time, and pretended not to look at him. I caught a glimpse of him out of the corner of my eye. He looked so helpless and no one was offering to help him; people can be so selfish and rude these days! I couldn’t take it anymore. I said, “OK, God, I get it, you want ME to help him. You know how I feel about talking to people. I get nervous, but I’ll do it because you’ve made it plain as day you want me to do this. And plus, You’ve done kind of a lot for me, so this is the least I can do.
As I walked closer to this man, I saw how much he resembled my dad, who had passed away just a few months prior. He was not very tall, maybe 5 feet 5 inches, wore a plaid long sleeve shirt (just like dad), light wash jeans (just like dad), pulled up high (dad!), and glasses just like my dad’s. And he had kind eyes and a sweet round face, just like my father. My dad didn’t always look kind to me; he developed his gentleness and kindness over the years.
I shuffled up near him and asked, “Hi, have you lost your car? I hate when that happens to me.” I smiled at him and turned my body sideways, so he wouldn’t feel like I was coming at him like a bull.
He said, “I’m sorry, what did you say?”
I repeated, “Did you misplace your car? I’ve done that before and I always hate it when I do that. Would you like me to help you find it?”
He smiled at me and said, “Yes, yes, I’ve lost my car, I can’t remember for the life of me where I parked it. I went in this door,” he pointed left, “but I left through this door in front of me, and now I’m so confused.” He chuckled as he said this, and we laughed together like old friends.
“Well, if you don’t mind, I’ll help you look around.”
“No, no, I don’t mind at all! Thank you very much! My car is a Lexus SUV and it’s black. I usually don’t drive this car, it’s my wife’s, so I’m a little turned around today. She needed me to drive it because it was making a noise and she wanted me to listen for it.” Just what my dad would have done for my mom.
“Oh, I totally understand! I drive the same car every day, and I still forget where I park and can’t find my car sometimes!” We laughed again. “I have to make a mental note every time I park my car now.”
“I never did hear the sound my wife was concerned about though. I’ll have to drive around some more later this afternoon.” We poked around the parking lot for a minute or so, chatting, and then he perked up and lifted his key fob and said, “Oh, hey, I found it! It’s right over there.” It was nowhere near where we were standing.
I looked to make sure he had found it and, sure enough, the lights were shining on the car he was pointing his key fob at. I asked him if he wanted me to walk him to his car or if he was OK and he said he was just fine.
I said, “You have a wonderful day, um, I’m sorry, what’s your name?”
He smiled the biggest smile, his face lit up and he said, “I’m Lou, and your name is Allison? You have a wonderful day, too!”
“Thanks, Lou! I will!”
I almost skipped into the store I was so full of happy feelings! Joy! That’s what I felt. I was so blessed to help him find his car, and to think that I didn’t want to do it at first. Well, I didn’t do anything, really, he found his own car, but he wasn’t alone, and sometimes, that makes all the difference in the world. If I’m alone, my anxiety increases by the yard, but if a person is with me, I’m ok. We weren’t made to navigate this life alone.
I was so joyful, I even smiled at the deli lady.
I didn’t get far past the oranges when it hit me that, and, this is the entire point of this article: I never told him my name. I never said “Hi, I’m Allison, I’d like to help you find your car.” My name never came up and I never gave it to him, but he knew my name was Allison.
Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it (Hebrews 13:2.)
Could the biblical meaning of hospitality extend to helping an elderly man find his car?
Was Lou an angel from God? (If someone in my city knows an old guy named Lou whose wife drives a black SUV Lexus, please don’t tell me. I want to think of Lou as an angel.)
I don’t know for sure, of course, but I wonder what all this means. It is an experience that means a lot to me, seeing a man that reminded me of my dad, soon after his passing, and I was able to help him (or at least be with him as he found his car). And he knew my name!
I think Lou (the angel?) could have been sent to comfort me, to send me a message that my dad is alive and well in the presence of Love and that while my dad can’t come back and pay me a visit, Lou could stand in his place for just a minute or two, reminding me that I’ll see him again someday. That was all I needed to put my heart at ease.
It was a gentle reminder to get out of my comfort zone and help others. I need to reach out and be kind and offer assistance when I can, even if it’s uncomfortable and inconvenient. Most other people aren’t that scary, and they are grateful for what you do for them. The blessing is for the giver, too. The receiver is blessed, yes, but you ask any giver, and they are like walking on clouds after they’ve given a blessing to someone. I know I was.
I still think of Lou, fumbling around in the parking lot, and short of him standing in front of my car with a sign that read, “Hey, lady, I’m here for YOU! I’m an angel and you’re about to have a cool experience”, I’m so thankful that I didn’t ignore God’s Spirit, nudging me on to help this man. I would have missed out on such a great feeling, and memory. I think of that now when I doubt myself and think “Should I get involved? Should I help that person?” The answer is probably in most cases, Yes!