So I work as a bank teller, and just like anyone else who works in customer service, you encounter a wide range of people. There’s never a dull moment when you work with the public, but sometimes you come across a certain customer who sticks out to you in a big way. I had a customer like that yesterday.
He was an older man that was probably in his mid-sixties. I work at a bank in a small town, so I usually see familiar faces walk through the door on a daily basis, but I didn’t recall ever waiting on him before. As he walked in, he stopped by the counter in the lobby to fill out his check. After a few minutes, he walked up to my counter. I greeted him with a smile and said, “Hi! How are you today?”
He hesitated and then he frowned. He gave a heavy sigh and finally replied in a harsh tone with, “Well I guess I’m doing alright.”
His reply caught me by surprise. Most people say that they’re doing well, even if they’re not. So when he threw me this conversational curveball, I didn’t really know how to respond or if I even should. I didn’t have to, though, because the next words out of his mouth were, “Can you fill out the rest of this check for me? I can’t write well.”
I said, “Okay. No problem,” as I started filling out his check.
I didn’t think much of his request because a good number of older people make the same request because their eyesight or writing may not be the best, but as I kept writing, I noticed that he placed his head down on my counter. I wondered what was wrong with him and wanted to ask if he was okay, but he seemed to be in a bad mood. “Maybe he just doesn’t want to be bothered. I probably should just mind my business and stick to my job,” I thought.
But something was tugging on my heart to say something even if I was at risk of another harsh reply. I took a deep breath, prepared myself to possibly get my head chopped off, and said, “Are you sure you’re ok?”
He slowly lifted his head off of the counter and said, “I’m just really tired.” I nodded my head and listened. Then he continued, “Ever since I had a stroke, I just get worn out so quickly.”
“I’m so sorry to hear that sir,” was all I could manage to get out. He’d thrown me another conversational curveball. When he said he was tired, I assumed it was because he hadn’t gotten a lot of sleep the night before (Lord knows I’m not the happiest camper when I don’t get a full eight hours of sleep!) or that the 88 degree weather outside had worn him out. But a stroke. Wow! I didn’t know what to say. As I struggled to find the words to say, he continued talking.
“I was supposed to get surgery this Thursday but the doctors told me that I’ll have to wait another two months. They ran some tests on me and they said I have way too many blood clots and I’m at risk of having an aneurism. I just don’t know what to do. I mean how can I wait that long to have a surgery that I need. I’m scared I’ll have an aneurism and die before then, but I guess those doctors know what’s best, right?” he said.
I stammered out, “Oh my goodness! I’m so sorry to hear that. I know that with things like strokes, it just takes a while to recover, but I’m sure you’ll be alright.”
He went on to say that he was just really upset because he didn’t know what was going on with his health and he didn’t really understand his doctors and all the terminology they used. As I watched him talk about his health, I no longer saw the man who seemed to be in such a bad mood that all he could offer was a frown and a harsh response. I now saw a man who was so consumed with worry, sadness, and fear about his own life that he couldn’t even smile if he wanted to. I saw a man who had been carrying around the burden of fighting what seemed to be a losing battle with his health and was frustrated with his body for failing him. I saw a broken man. It was almost like I could literally feel his pain and I felt such a deep sense of compassion for him, but I wasn’t really sure of what to say to comfort him. I thought to myself, “Lord, what in the world should I say to this man? I was not expecting all of this!”
Then he said, “I just got my voice back 10 days ago. I haven’t had it since I had my stroke. The doctors said it had something to do with that. But I just woke up one morning and it was back like it never left.”
I gave him a big smile and replied, “Well that’s a good sign then. That means you’re improving and getting better. It’s going to be fine, it’s just going to take some time.”
He gave a shy smile and said, “Well yeah. I guess so.”
By this time, I’d cashed his check so I counted the money out to him and then said, “You’ll be alright, but I’ll definitely keep you in my prayers.”
He said thank you and left. I felt like there was so much that I could have or should have said. However, I’m thankful that I didn’t ignore God speaking to my heart and actually said something. There have been so many times in my life, where I’ve felt that same tug to speak to someone or ask them if there are doing okay, but I ignored it. I talked myself out of it by saying, “Well they’re a stranger. They’ll never open up to me.”
Or, “It’s really not my business so I shouldn’t pry.”
Or, “If I say something, the people around me might think it’s strange.”
But as I continue to grow in my walk with Christ, I’m learning more and more to listen to him when He leads me to reach out to someone in love and compassion. My biggest fear in reaching out to someone like that is that I’ll be rejected. The funny thing is though, every time I’ve listened to and obeyed Him when He guides me to reach out to someone, I’ve never faced any kind of rejection. I really think that’s because when God leads you do something, it is on purpose and it is for a purpose. When He pulls on your heart for you to reach out to someone, it’s because He really wants to send that person a message of hope and healing. He’s pulling on your heart because He needs in a willing vessel that He can send that message through. All you have to do is be ready and willing to be used by Him. You don’t have to prepare that message for that person in advance. You don’t have to preach a sermon to that person. You don’t have to say it perfectly and eloquently. You just have to be willing to open your mouth and say it. That’s it.
Honestly, I think most, if not all of us feel those same tugs on our hearts and conscience from time to time. There are so many broken and hurting people in this world that need to hear a message of hope, love, wisdom or healing to help them overcome whatever they are going through. What a beautiful privilege and duty we have been given by God to partner with Him in giving His heartfelt messages to the people who need it most. He desires to use you as a vessel to give words of strength to the weak, words of encouragement to the hopeless, and words of love to the lonely. Our dying world is full of people who desperately need to hear His message from a willing and obedient vessel just like you. So the next time you feel that tug on your heart to reach out to someone, don’t ignore it. Don’t talk yourself out of it because you’re afraid of the possibility of rejection, scared of what others may think of you, or feel you should just mind your business. Trust God and know that if He’s asking you to reach out to that person it’s because He has signed and sealed a message that He wants to deliver through you.