Parking Lot People-Hunting
I had two hours left till I was to go live on Facebook with some sort of creative expression and I had absolutely no idea what I was going to do. This was live stream #18 and all the others had been a breeze. I considered it a gift from God to be getting these ideas: doodling, painting, dancing, smelling, tasting, etc. Though I had no real experience live-streaming on my own and Facebook was not my best friend, I found that I was riding high with creative ideas and getting more comfortable with taking the virtual plunge. What started out as a little doodle lesson grew up to become a kind of thing--not quite defined or refined, but something that was, hopefully, giving people a little creative break in the monotony of quarantine.
On the morning of April 15, I awoke with absolutely nothing--zip, nada, nil. The night before, I considered doing a treasure hunt but it didn’t seem right in the light of day. It fell flat. I fell flat. And that was that. For the rest of the morning, I walked around like a zombie wondering what I should do with myself. I told myself I could just cancel. No big deal. But that felt like a copout so I forced myself to get ready. At 10 a.m., I posted a notice on Facebook: “Today on My Lunch Break live at noon I have no idea what I will be doing. LOL” To be honest, I wasn’t really LOLing but (a) I was determined to remove any option of escape, and (b) I thought this might draw a crowd of lookie-loos to see what on earth I’d do.
Feeling less than creative and with a fairly crappy attitude, I managed to come up with the idea of picnicking in my car in front of the park. I parked on the roadside, looked off at the rolling hills and my eyes rolled back in boredom. Looking at it from the street is not the same as being there. And then it hit me--Go to where the people are. So I drove down the street to Albertsons, parked the car, sat in the trunk area of my SUV saying hello to passersby from the open door. At once, my mood shifted. I felt stupid. But the prospect of talking to real-life strangers outweighed my feelings of embarrassment. I smiled and said, “HI” with great gusto. A few returned the greeting but with tremendously less gusto. Maybe they thought I wanted something from them. Who knows? Regardless, I accomplished my live-stream from the back of my car and encouraged others to go out and create conversation in parking lots as well. (If you’ve watched the video, thank you.)
Second brilliant idea: why not see which store has the greatest conversational success rate: Walmart, Target, or Costco. I figured Costco had the greatest chances, so I went to Walmart. Hey, the Bible says not to despise humble beginnings, right? Walmart turned out to be a dud. People weren’t nice. Very disappointing. Although, I did have one lady who smiled at me from behind her mask (I think) and not only said “hi” but told me to have a nice day. I love her. Just sayin’.
Next stop, Target. I admit, by this time I was less than enthused about sitting in my car but still anxious to talk with someone, anyone--even a dog would have been nice. I love dogs and often converse with random pups in public (and sometimes even their owners). But I digress.
I decided to go into Target instead. I smiled (beneath my mask) and said “hi” to people but most just glanced in my direction and turned away. Did they think they imagined it? After all, they couldn’t see my lips moving. Whatever. By this point, I got sidetracked and wanted to buy all the pretty things in sight, so I settled for a case of flavored water and headed for my car. That was when I saw him. Leonard. I forgot to tell you that I noticed him on my way into Target. He was sitting in a motorized cart talking to someone walking by. So when I left the store I glanced around for him. I thought maybe I’d try one last shot for some convo, but he wasn’t there. So off I went. And as I backed out of my parking space, I spotted him across the parking lot. I was so excited that I drove like a madwoman slantways across all the empty spaces to peal up beside him. I startled him (sorry), but he recovered quickly. I rolled down my window and asked if he wanted to chat. He responded with the gusto I was hoping to hear all afternoon. “Yes! My name is Leonard. It’s nice to meet you! Do you need prayer for anything?” Oh Leonard, if you only knew.
Often times God arranges the right people to come into your life at just the right time and you know you’ve been hit with a Divine setup. Enter, Leonard. A delightful cherub of a man who looks like Santa Claus on electric wheels. We talked for nearly half an hour (from a safe distance mind you). His brilliant blue eyes sparkled as he shared stories of God’s faithfulness in his life even though he was somewhat homeless. He told me that he knew God since he was a child and always felt His love. And then he shared a testimony that he prefaced with, “This is real--no BS.” He said he used to describe God to people like an orange. “God is sweet and even sweeter when you choose to peel off the outer layer and taste and see that He is good.” Then he told me he hit rock bottom a few years back. He messed up his life big time and one morning he awoke at 5:30 in the morning and got on his knees. He prayed to God and then asked Him what He wanted him to do with his life. He heard him say clear as day (again, no BS), “Honor me.” In the next few moments, the sun came up and shone in his room so brightly that it caused him to go to the window. Not far in the distance, he noticed a herd of sheep. And then his eyes were drawn to a single tree standing alone in the field not far from the sheep. It was an orange tree.
By this time, both of us were in tears. I love the way God speaks to each of us so specifically, so unique to who we are and what matters to us. It reminded me of all the crazy, creative, wonderful ways God has spoken to me over the years. And it reminded me of how He was speaking to me right there and then with my new friend Leonard.
My heart was full. My mood was lifted. I went home savoring my time with Leonard and meditating on my Daddy God who sees me right where I’m at and never fails to meet me with His love and faithfulness.
What's on tap for tomorrow? Hmmmm, I'm thinking Costco.