Some of you know I serve as a career coach. Just last week I found myself in a Panera Bread working with one of my current students on their resume.
This particular location is extremely thin on power outlets, so while working on battery power, we pretty much stalked every person at every table near a coveted outlet until finally we scored a “Power Table” with about 17% battery power remaining on my laptop.
A few minutes later, I looked up to see a super tall and impressively muscular guy walking around the restaurant, holding his phone and a power cable, clearly looking for a free outlet. I knew he was out of luck. He went to the cashier to ask where the outlets were and then he knew he was out of luck.
I watched him go back to his seat and join a large group of his friends seated at a span of tables.
I could have dismissed him and gotten back to work. It certainly would have been easy. and safe.
But I could feel the Holy Spirit nudging me.
So, as I reached into my purse for my favorite shiny red high speed portable charger, I told my student I would be right back.
The entire restaurant was loud and bustling and nobody was paying any attention to me, so the walk toward him was mindless, fast and easy. But, the moment I stepped up to that particular group of tables, every. single. person. seated there abruptly stopped talking and turned toward the interruption. .
that would be me.
every single face was silently staring. at me.
I admit, I was immediately uncomfortable. When I’d reached for the charger and while I was walking toward the table, I hadn’t considered the possibility that my attempt to help might be viewed as an unwelcome intrusion, but at that moment, from my perspective, 8 people halting their conversation to openly stare at me had “intrusion” written all over it.
and I was suddenly, extremely and self-consciously aware of the fact that I am white.
Did I not mention that every single person staring at me was black?
I held out my phone charger.
“Would you like to borrow this?”
There was a noticeable pause, then a look of disbelief and confusion, followed by a “REALLY?!?!” as his friends looked back and forth from me to him like they were watching a tennis match.
Ball was back in my court.
I pointed to my table and my student. “I’ll be sitting right over there when you’re done with it.”
I’d like to say that he charged his phone, returned my phone charger and that was that.
In reality, I forgot about him and my charger for about a half hour and when I looked up, he – and all of his friends – were gone.
Me: “Did he leave?”
My student and I scanned the restaurant. He was nowhere to be seen. Suddenly she said, “There he is! Outside.”
We kept working for another 20 minutes or so and then she noticed him get up and walk toward the parking lot, out of our line of sight. I stepped outside and saw him dump his drink cup in a garbage can at the edge of the parking lot, so I said, “Are you leaving?”
He immediately assured me he wasn’t and joined his friends who were now sitting at tables near the garbage can where he dumped his drink cup.
I went back inside, my student and I got engaged in a particularly challenging section of the resume and we both completely forgot about him.
Until he quietly slipped the charger on our the table, thanked me again and left.
Would I have left the building without saying something to me if I were him?
No. It was thoughtless, but not malicious or devious.
Did I think he was trying to steal my $20 rapid phone charger?
No. I thought he forgot it was in his pocket.
Did he think I thought he was trying to steal my phone charger?
I don’t think so. He didn’t seem offended.
Did I regret loaning it to him?
No. I knew when I stepped outside my comfort zone and handed over my phone charger to a complete stranger that it would be easier to keep to myself and let his phone die.
I know that reaching out to help someone is a witness for Christ even when His name isn’t spoken.
I hope and pray that by evidencing “Love God, Love Others” in that simple action, my student watched, processed and was inspired to step out of her own comfort zone and extend a helping hand when it would be easier to be quiet and stay comfortable.
Will I do it again?
Even more so.
But I also think that the next time I go back to that particular Panera, I’ll be bringing a power strip with me to share with my fellow power-needy laptop cohorts.
Lord, please help me to be aware of your presence in every moment of my life and to recognize your promptings. Please bless me with the courage and motivation to be immediately obedient when you nudge me to do or say something. Don’t let me miss an opportunity to bless and be blessed because I’m held back by fear or because I want to cling to my comfort zone. AMEN.