The Oasis - August 19, 2020
Author: Pastor Dan Hollis
August 19, 2020
August 19, 2020
by Pastor Dan Hollis
The other day I made my twice-monthly trip into civilization to shop for necessities. By this point, most of us are familiar with the register lines in bigger stores with markings on the floor asking shoppers to wait in line six feet apart. On this particular day at this particular time, there were so many people waiting for each of the registers that the six-foot distancing between each made for quite the spectacle. As I pushed my cart into position to wait for the line to work its way past the cashier, I ended up having to park myself in the jewelry section of all places, leaning my back awkwardly against a long display case. I certainly didn’t mind the lumbar support, especially if I was going to be there for a while, but I was far enough away that I couldn’t even see the person doing the bagging at the head of my line.
As it turns out, “my” cashier was waiting for another employee to show up for a price-check or something like that, so I found myself idling for some time while my wet laundry sat unattended in a washing machine across town waiting patiently for me to move it to a dryer. I’m a pretty easygoing guy, though; I didn’t have any appointments I needed to make, so I was perfectly content to wait however long it took.
Looking around, to pass the time, I really noticed the social barriers most of us have built up during these months of social distancing. The store was weirdly quiet, something I hadn’t consciously noticed. Aside from the music echoing faintly from the speakers, I would go long stretches waiting in that line without overhearing even a single word. Don’t get me wrong—there’s no judgment here. Folks are trying their best to keep their distance, and to keep from breathing on each other or being breathed on in turn. We’re all keeping our heads down, getting in and getting out, getting done what we need to get done, and getting on with our lives. But I didn’t realize how sad it was until—for a moment—the silence was broken.
A slender woman with white hair and glasses I had never met was walking by, about to pass around my cart. “Any farther back and they’re going to start making you sell that jewelry.” I looked over in surprise and I could see the sides of her face lifted up in a wide smile from behind her mask. I laughed from behind my own mask, tapped the display case I was leaning on, and said something like, “Hey, at least it’s honest work.” And just like that, six feet apart, this masked stranger and I got into a friendly conversation for a few brief minutes, talking about photos and pharmacies and basically nothing at all.
After she had gone on her way, I realized that this random woman was the first person in months that I have had a face-to-face conversation with (a real, honest-to-God in-person chat) that wasn’t a cashier, my landlord, or a grieving family.
Community is that easy to create. It is that easy to share the love in your heart with another, even a stranger, even from a safe distance. That woman—whose name I’ll never know—made my day, and I hope I made hers. A bright spot in dimness, or—if you will—an Oasis in the desert.
In the silence, in the mundanity, Jesus visited me in the heart of a stranger. I hope that you, too, can carry the presence of Jesus in your heart to another… even behind a mask, even from a safe distance, even stuck in an unmoving queue.
A Celtic Rune of Hospitality
We saw a stranger yesterday.
We put food in the eating place,
Drink in the drinking place,
Music in the listening place.
And with the sacred name of the triune God
He blessed us and our house,
Our cattle and our dear ones.
As the lark says in her song:
Often, often, often, goes the Christ
In the stranger’s guise.