36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
From time to time I go to the mall near our church to sit in the food court, watch people, walk around and get to know the merchants and greet people whom I already know. On the way to the mall I usually pray “Lord, put someone in my path today with whom I can talk about spiritual things and get to the Gospel. You know that I do not meet people easily and it is unlikely that I will push into a stranger’s day”. (It almost reminds me of the prayer “O Lord, make me right. You now I’m not going to change my mind”.) And He answers (the first prayer, not the second). He puts people in my path. I have given the Gospel to several people, counselled others, chatted up still more, talked to spiritual drifters about why they no longer come to church. I have met the security guards, people who practically live in the mall and people who recognize me and who think that I remember them. It is one of my favourite activities, which is a miracle in itself because I do not meet people easily, less so if there is no one to introduce me and even less if it is up to me to come up cold turkey to strangers. But God answers the prayer and I am very grateful.Part of what makes it so enjoyable is seeing people laughing together, enjoying one another’s company, playing with their children.
It is also one of the most heartbreaking activities I do. I see people arguing with their mates, parents berating their children, and tears. I see people sitting alone and I wonder if it is by choice or if they come to the mall just to be with others because there is no one at home anymore. Many of the conversations deal with someone else that the speaker has an issue with. The language coming out of some people’s mouths would peel paint.It does not take great insight to see pain and anger and frustration and hardship. I makes me wonder what Jesus, with His insights and understanding of people, must have felt when He watched and listened to people.
On the days that I do not actually get into conversations with people, I might read or better yet, take notes in my notebook about what I am observing.
Here are my notes from my last visit.
– There are Muslim prayer beads everywhere.
– There is a field trip in the mall today of people from a home for mentally disabled adults. What is their life like? What special considerations do they get at the judgement? They are getting precious little from their care giver. She is ignoring them and showing next to no care. They ask her questions and get no answer. They point to things but she shows no response. Not a care giver today. What is going on in her life to make her so snarly with these poor people? Did she start out working for them with genuine care and just grew weary? Does the constant need now not register with her? Has care for the needy turned into a job?
– A Rastafarian in an animated discussion two tables over regarding the sins of the established church. I want to eavesdrop but it is far too noisy in here. At least he raises his voice enough from time to time for me to hear a little bit. Should I go and insert myself into the conversation? He would probably welcome the opportunity to debate. I wouldn’t. Not today.
– A simply huge man in a motorized chair. He is not dressed well. He is eating. Need and loneliness ooze out of his pores. What has happened to him to cause him to eat himself into this condition? How do we get so big? Note to self: don’t ever be the reason for anyone to ask this question.
– The lottery booth is not overcrowded today. No draw tonight I guess. The business there is constant though. People going through their prayer beads as they approach the booth. What a fascinating juxtaposition of philosophies.
– A woman pushing a baby in a stroller and obliviously mining the contents out of her nose. O Lord, make me so unaffected by the eyes and opinions of others. O Lord never let me be that unaffected by the eyes and opinions of others.
– Coffee finished. Time to go.