It occurred to me that the content of this blog thus far has not lived up to its title, in that I’ve not yet posted a single thing I’ve overheard at EZ Mart. We shall remedy that now.
I’m in convenience stores a lot, for two reasons: First, my job has me on the road a good bit. Secondly, I love caffeine in all of its glorious forms. When I’m at home and have time, I make regular use of my Cuisinart espresso machine. I will probably write a future post extolling its many stainless steel and LED virtues. But when I’m on the road or in a hurry, I have to rely on convenient stores.
I live in a small town, and we have four convenience stores. Each one has a different clientele. TJ’s was a gleaming flagship wonderland of a convenient store when it opened back in the 1990’s. It was a game changer: a four-bay car wash, fro-yo machines and plate lunches. The Greatest Generation guys settled on TJ’s as the coffee shop. I’ not sure you can win an election in De Queen without a stump visit to the TJ’s coffee crowd. On any school morning, you’ll see a steady stream of teachers, students and coaches filing in for breakfast to start their days. I always buy my gas there (unadulterated, ethanol-free).
But when it’s time for caffeine or a snack, I go to the EZ Mart across the intersection. I love the Ninth Street EZ Mart. The average transaction at the De Queen Ninth Street EZ Mart includes the following: a pack of off-brand cigarettes, a Monster energy drink, a 20 oz. Mountain Dew for the preschool kid waiting patiently in the car, two scratch-off lottery tickets… and $3.00 in gas.
You see some (and hear) some stuff in the Ninth Street EZ Mart. It’s a cross section of society. It’s not uncommon to see kids with no shoes, or grownups wearing pajama pants in the middle of the day. You wouldn’t expect to see the same scene 100 yards across the intersection at TJ’s. A neck tattoo is not necessarily required at the Ninth Street EZ Mart, but I would certainly have more cred if I had one. Many of the regulars are probably ten years younger than they actually look.
A delicate flower of a person would probably not fare too well working the register there. It’s a 24 hour establishment. It’s not uncommon to roll in and walk past a clerk who has stepped outside for a smoke. She’ll lay her still-burning cigarette on the window ledge and follow me in the store. She’ll ring me up, then follow me back outside to finish her smoke. The Ninth Street EZ Mart is real.
To a person, all the clerks are friendly in their own ways. And they’re friendly to everybody. It’s probably the most diverse selection of individuals you’ll see in town. I see people in that store that I never see anywhere else. These are people who you don’t even see in WalMart. And the clerks are universally nice to each and every last one of them.
But there’s one clerk in particular who stands out. I’ve gotten to know her fairly well over the last couple years. She ends every transaction with “Have a blessed day.” Not just a good day, but a blessed day. I realize it’s a little thing. But it’s really not a little thing.
I don’t know her last name. I do know where she goes to church, because after about the fourth time she told me to “have a blessed day,” I asked her. At first I thought maybe she was saying that to me because she knew that I’m a pastor. I’m a public figure in a small town; I don’t know everybody who knows me. But it’s not just me. She ends every transaction that way. Whether she’s selling a Diet Coke to the preacher, or whether she’s selling cigarettes and lottery tickets to the guy with prison ink on his face. She sends every customer on their way… happily and consistently dispensing beef jerky, lottery tickets and the blessings of God.
I’m pretty sure there are plenty of Christians who wouldn’t work a job where they had to sell lottery tickets or cigarettes, and that’s okay.
Unfortunately, in most of our towns, there are a lot of people who feel plenty comfortable in EZ Mart but don’t feel at all comfortable in church. That bothers me.
Maybe if Christians in church were as consistently welcoming as convenience store clerks, we would make better inroads across socio-economic barriers.
I suspect that she views that convenience store counter as her mission field. And it’s okay for me to say this, because I am a preacher, but she’s not “preachy” when she says it.
Every day, she has hundreds of interactions with people from every race, background and social situation possible. Her words might be the only light of blessedness that shines in the lives of her customers on any given day. It’s her mission field, and she’s doing a great job there. I think we can all probably do a better job of spreading blessedness into the world around us, no matter where our field happens to be. So, in case nobody has said it to you lately, I hope you have a blessed day.