I am a child of God, and so are you.
This was the message Jo preached Sunday, April 19th. All the elements of the service further illuminated that theme, from scripture and hymns to children’s message to the gorgeous rendition of “Child of God” sung by alto Emily Ford-Coates. Here is a version of the song online, if you’d like to listen:
Jo focused on how we can convey to another person that we are children of God, absent a greeting of, “Hello! I’m so-and-so, and I’m a child of God!” One of the ways she mentioned was simply to smile and speak kindly to the strangers we encounter.
I left thinking, “Well, that’s a sweet message, but really, how much of God’s love for God’s children can a smile convey?”
Later that afternoon, I had occasion to be in a Hardee’s restaurant in Chapel Hill. It was a dismal day, as torrential rain poured and threatened to make my drive home anxious and difficult. My spirits were low and I was tired, my mind tangled in a troublesome situation. Popping in for a cup of coffee offered a bit of comfort.
Taking my order was a young African American man, perhaps in his early 20’s. Remembering Jo’s words, I summoned the energy to make eye contact, smile, and respond graciously as he told me he’d be glad to brew me a fresh cup of coffee if I didn’t mind waiting a few minutes. I thanked him, and as I waited I had a couple more exchanges with him. He was apologetic that the machine was taking a longer time, and I assured him I was happy to wait.
As the brewing completed, he said, “Now which size cup can I serve you, to make up for having to wait?” I thanked him, he gave me the coffee, and I replied, “This will get me back to Greensboro.” “Thank you, darling, you drive carefully,” he replied with a smile.
Normally I don’t take well to being called “darling” by a strange man. But this was different: He clearly meant no harm or insult. As our eyes met, I think he sensed exactly what I felt in that exchange: Our common humanity and the value of a smile and kind words.
And so a middle-aged white woman and a young black man, perfect strangers, made a fleeting and unexpected human connection. And didn’t that convey our common status as children of God as clearly as anything we could have said? I hope it was as bright a spot in a dreary day for him as it was for me – all because of a smile.
Jo was right.