(Previously posted to MySpace on Wednesday, August 13, 2008)
She sat a couple of tables over and happily nursed her baby without covering nor shame. I read her wife beater style tank when she walked by and it said "Kiss-Not Kill". The air of a "hippie" was apparent and I can't explain why. Maybe it was the hair, longer than most women this day and age and cut into a shag.
Just beside her in a booth was what I assumed to be a student, though his age defied my assumption. He was furiously highlighting in a thick workbook and there were colorful post-it markers sticking out on all sides. He looked to be adamantly studying. He'd raise his head ever so often with a concentrated look as if to memorize.
Up walked 4 young guys, all within a couple years of 20, plus or minus. They ordered a variety of fruit smoothies with protein. Tanned legs stuck out of plaid shorts and fitted t-shirts advertised popular clothing brands, college monikers and the such. Brown feet were ensconced in leather type flip flops and the careless way they flipped their college haircuts out of their eyes belied not a care in the world.
Obviously wealthy, yet weak, the elderly woman watched all this without concern. She had a diamond on her hand worth more than my entire monetary portfolio and heavy gold earrings weighted her lobes. Her hair was perfectly coiffed and what I call "cataract glasses" were perched on her head. She was waiting patiently, at that age where you have no choice. You are still mobile but have little stamina, and are basically forced to let everyone do their thing. If they take you with them, you sit until they finish and come back to help you to the car.
Then there were the three 30 something women who had been swimming. With cover-ups on and pricey handbags on their shoulders, they commanded the attention of most within sight. Each had a clip holding up their obviously saloned hair and they pretended no one else existed. They talked brightly and made eye contact with not a soul.
In this mix, the cowboy was the most interesting. And no, not for obvious reasons. He was well dressed in a suit and tie, a pair of cowboy boots, and his head was topped with a dressy, summer cowboy hat. His handlebar moustache was thick and grey, and overwhelmed his slight frame.
My favorites were right beside me, close enough for me to catch some of their words. They sat down in a booth across from each other and in a gesture obviously familiar to each of them, they reached across the table and joined hands. Both women were over 70, one of them beautiful to the point of my knowing she was a beauty queen in former years. The beauty prayed. I fumbled hysterically in my bag for my camera. Then proceeded to turn off the flash trying to be Sherlock Holmes and get a picture of their prayer. Of course, by the time I got it in place, they were finished praying. The eldest held on to her friend's hands and I heard her saying " You are the dearest friend I have." I had previously guessed sisters, then observed something that portrayed a long lost joy in seeing each other. An extra something that was not in the familiarity of siblings.
All this transpired in the coffee shop/juice bar of an upscale grocery store, Whole Foods. According to traditions in Mississippi, none of the previously mentioned people would be considered "normal" by most standards. Oh how I'd have loved to poll those I discreetly watched. I would have been safe to bet there wasn't a Republican in the mix. This crowd was full of social activist. My view of the parking lot revealed a range in transportation, from Hybrids all the way up to the excessive BMW. I watched people emerge from vehicles and it's quite comical to pair a person with a car. The thin guy with nylon running shorts exits the Jetta while the 50ish well built women in the tennis dress slammed the door on her Mercedes. How extremely different everyone was, yet all had something in common. What fun a debate amongst these would have been. Obama would have been shoo in as President that very second, and every single American in Iraq would have been deported home at the earliest possible moment.
The yuppie women carrying the $1000 purses and driving the gas guzzling SUV's felt this was "their place" just as did the hippie mother who proudly nursed her child in public. And there my son and I sat. Both born in Mississippi, me living there most of my years and him for the first 23 of his life, we also felt it was "our place". We were right at home.
I love Whole Foods for the beautiful displays and choices in things not readily available in my small town. The art of piling fresh fruits in baskets, the colorful array of gourmet salads, the cuts of meats and fish the staunchest gourmand would demand, and the choice in fresh baked breads are entirely tempting. The visual feast of just walking through this store or having a smoothie while people watching is high on my favorite things to do when in the big city. The fresh flower market alone is sensory over dose. Learning to live "green" and "organic" abounds. I saw a green t-shirt available for purchase that proclaimed " I was organic when organic wasn't cool."
I find it comical that the prissy 30 somethings were there because it's a "cool" place to be while the nursing mom considers it "green". Should either discuss the other, I somehow think it would be in disgust. Yet they find commonality in a grocery emporium.
Churches need to take on the "Whole Foods" approach. Services should be bright, colorful and welcome you. Funny how the scents and sights of Whole Foods flower market greets you at the door. Upon arrival, we need only the best as is offered at this beautiful retailer. The worship should be pure and as good for you as anything organic. Fresh protein offered like you see in the market area would mean healthy saints. Something new and fresh in song and the Word is attractive. The 30 something prissy and the hippie nursing mother should feel right at home. We have the equation it takes to get to heaven, and it's up to us to introduce them to it.
Making your house of worship a comfortable setting for all walks of life is your place. Not only the pastor, hospitality team or janitor is responsible. You will be held accountable for those you come in contact with that would never be exposed to Jesus otherwise. As we walked out of the store, 2 separate guys bagging said, "Thanks for coming in. Have a great evening." Wow. And they are even friendly.
Whether someone is looking for coffee, a protein drink, or a berry smoothie, something in our services need to appeal to them all. And a friendly welcome is the perfect place to begin. We should take pride in the grounds. Fresh paint and an entrance that beckons is a must. It doesn't take tons of money to have a clean, inviting entrance. Place urns beside the front doors with a plant to say welcome. Light an incredible smelling candle in the foyer. Make sure the restrooms are outfitted properly. Have soothing music (live or piped in) playing pre and post service. Then when they arrive, make them know they are welcomed and in a place that offers something they need.
The Church of Whole Foods. What a concept.