Yesterday, for the third year running, members of Sunderland Minster spent the day at a stall in the neighbouring shopping mall. Ahead of Mothers’ Day this coming weekend, we were there to hold out the invitation to mark the occasion by writing a message of appreciation or a prayer, and placing it, along with a tealight, in a basket. The messages would then be displayed at the Minster for a whole week, while the tealights will be lit at our morning service on Mothers’ Day itself.
I find engaging people I don’t know in conversation particularly hard (and instead of approaching people, I quietly pray, asking God to send people to me). Yet each time we do this, it seems to meet a need. For me, the highlight is the many often deeply personal and moving conversations I get to have over the course of several hours simply being purposely present to those neighbours Jesus calls us to love as we love ourselves.
Yesterday, conversations ranged from the humorous—
one boy out with his mother decided that he would get her a Mothers’ Day card when he turned 18; I suggested that he practiced every year until then, so he’d get it right—
to the appreciative—
‘what a wonderful idea! You’ve made my day!’—
to the faltering—
‘what is there to say, after she’s been gone all these years; and how to say it?’—
to the poignant—
with those who have lost mothers very recently—
to the timely—
with international students who miss their mothers—
to the spoken/unspoken—
with the woman pushing a reborn doll in a silver cross pram...
I found myself thankful for the opportunity; for the people God sent our way; and for the fabulous team from the Minster who took turns on the stall.
I’m also struck by the number of people who walked by, took in what we were offering, and felt compelled to come back to us—the need for a bit of ‘processing time’ before doing so; and the way the nature of a shopping mall makes that possible...
Is there something we can learn here?