What does it look like to care? To care about someone else? To care about a stranger? To care about the neighbor next door? To care about people outside our circle of friends and family? Is it even possible to show a complete stranger that you care about them? My personal experience suggests that it is possible.

A few months ago I was getting ready to renovate our basement bathroom. After much deliberation we went to our local big box hardware store to purchase some supplies.  The largest undertaking was going to be the shower.  When I arrived in the floor adhesive aisle I was overwhelmed.  Before me were dozens and dozens of options.  I went into a glazed stare while thinking to myself, “I wish I knew someone I could ask about this.”

Just then a gentleman to my left, who must have noticed the deer in headlights look on my face, introduced himself and asked if he could help. This man was not a store employee.  He was a professional contractor who specialized in tiling. Though he was there with his son on a day off, this man spent twenty minutes talking with my wife and I about our bathroom renovations.  He walked us through several aisles to show us different materials and tools required for the various steps.  He shared tips and and gave advice specific to our job.  It was an incredible experience.

When he shared his final thought he wished us well and walked off with his son to check out.  Moments later my wife said, “Did you get his card?”  I hadn’t.  I actually had to run to the front of the store in order to catch up with the guy.

Imagine that.  A contractor who didn’t offer his card.  He wasn’t looking for anything in return.  He wasn’t looking for a job.  He didn’t want to be networked.  He was simply sharing his expertise with someone who looked like they could use some help.  Just giving his secrets away freely with no strings attached.  Priceless advice, free of charge.

Is it possible to show a complete stranger that you care about them? As a stranger myself, I attest that it is possible to feel cared for by someone you don’t know.  I was cared for by a complete stranger at a big box hardware store for twenty minutes

So how did I feel cared for…

  1. I was noticed
  2. I was engaged
  3. I was given two priceless gifts, time & wisdom
  4. I was offered further relationship (told to call anytime)

Think about that list.  Four levels of caring; each slightly more involved than the next.  Having your eyes open to those around you (1).  Taking the initiative to get involved with someone around you (2).  Open handedness towards the other person in gift or service (3).  Invitation of relationship beyond your initial encounter (4).

I find this contractors example challenging in my life.  Do I notice those around me in a store or am I too focused on my own shopping list to acknowledge their existence?  When I see needs what keeps me from engaging?  Is my agenda for the day too packed.  Do I leave no room for strangers?  Am I as generous with my time and wisdom as this man was to me?  Am I willing to offer more of my time to a stranger?  What if they begin calling me every day?  What if I actually don’t like them?  What if they’re crazy?  What if? What if?  What if?

Amidst all these questions Jesus words echo clearly…

And, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

“And who is my neighbor?” you might ask…well it just so happens that Jesus answered that very question with a story.  My personal thoughts on Jesus story are here.  But thoughts are just thoughts until we act on them.

Here’s to a an incredible neighbor I met at a hardware.  Cheers to you and your example.

Thank you!