Interrupt Me, Please?
Religion & Liberty Online

Interrupt Me, Please?

Today’s blog post is from one of our faithful On Call in Culture community members, Sheila Seiler Lagrand, Ph.D. who earned her doctorate in anthropology at the University of California, Los Angeles. As an undergraduate at the University of California, San Diego, she studied anthropology and literature with an emphasis in writing. Currently she blogs at Godspotting with Sheila and contributes regularly at Sheila is a member of the The High Calling. Her work has appeared in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Here Comes the Bride and in Paul’s Letters to the Philippians: Community Commentary. Forthcoming are contributions to Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Power of Positive and Wounded Women of the Bible. Sheila and her husband, Rich, live and worship in the foothills of South Orange County, California.

I don’t like being interrupted.
I love being interrupted.

I might be working my way through the grocery store, methodically selecting every item on the list:

Tomatoes: check!
Zucchini: check!
Potatoes: check!

And then, just as I’m moving away from Produce and on to Canned Vegetables, I see her. She’s standing in front of the green beans, craning her neck. Because she’s five foot two. And the advertised-special green beans are All. The. Way. Up. There.

“Would you like some of those?” I ask her, smiling down. I’m five foot nine. Top shelves at the grocery store were made for people like me.

“Oh, would I! Two cans, please!” She answers with a chirpy, crepey voice that reminds me of my grandmother’s. I notice her frayed blouse, her sensible oxfords with the toes nearly broken clean through. Dark brown eyes peer out at me from between decades upon decades of care, etched into the corners of her eyelids. I wonder: will my eyebrows turn silver, as hers have?

I reach down and hand her the two cans of special-today green beans and she rewards me with a smile bigger than the savings being promised, right now, for those shoppers who hurry right over to the meat department. I look her in the eye as I hand over the cans; she returns my gaze with murmured “thank you,” eyes lowered. Her thanks are disproportionate to the smallness of my deed, still sounding as I make my way over to the Coffee and Bread aisle.

I’m driving home on this hot summer afternoon, car full of groceries, and I’m thinking about that woman. I’m thinking about me. I’m remembering the cast on my arm, some time ago now, and how hard it was for me to say, “Excuse me? Could you please help me? I can’t pump gas in this thing.” Tripped by my own pride, I nearly stranded myself more than once before my wrist healed. Now, when I pull in to the gas station, I keep an eye out for people who might be struggling. At the grocery story, I scan the aisle for short great-grandmothers wanting items from the top shelf. Or harried dads trying to conclude their transactions while their toddlers fuss at the check stand. Or moms who aren’t sure how to cook a roast, but want to try. At my place of business, I remind the UPS and FedEx drivers and the office supply delivery man: “We have plenty of cold water here. If you’re thirsty when you get here, you just let me know. Or help yourself.”

They’re small things, every one of them. Wars are not averted because that tall lady at the supermarket handed down the green beans. Sick babies don’t recover because someone pumped gas for the man with his arm in a sling.

But each morning, I greet the day inviting God to interrupt me for His purposes. And I never know what He’ll bring me with His interruptions.

Mindy Hirst

Mindy Hirst is co-founder of Generous Mind, a think tank devoted to helping people be generous with their ideas. She is also a founder of the On Call In Culture community.