The Pastor of the Grocery Store

A young man named Johnny had Downs Syndrome and worked as a grocery store bagger. He didn’t feel that he had much to offer other people – till he was inspired to go beyond bagging customer’s groceries. His story shows us the surprising way that the kingdom of God works.

Each day Johnny prepared and brought to work special notes for his customers and he’d put one on top of the last bag of groceries he filled. He’d smile at the customer and say, “I put a great saying in your bag. I hope it helps you have a good day. Thanks for coming in.”

An amazing thing happened in that grocery store: the line at Johnny’s checkout was three times longer than anybody else’s!  The manager tried to get people to move to a shorter line so they could get on their way, but they all said: “That’s okay, we’ll wait. We want to be in Johnny’s line. We want to get his thought for the day!”

And Johnny’s influence didn’t stop there! Over the next couple of months others at the store started to follow Johnny’s example. When the Floral Department had a broken flower or an unused corsage instead of throwing it away they found an elderly woman or a little girl and pinned it on her. The guys who worked on the shopping carts made sure that all the wheels on the carts really worked. Employees greeted customers with a smile and friendly words.

Johnny wasn’t the owner or store manager. He wasn’t even a supervisor. He didn’t make much money and he didn’t have a very high IQ. But God used him to transform the culture of that entire grocery store to become more cheerful, considerate, and kind. (This story is told in The Simple Truths of Service Ken Blanchard and Barbara Glanz.)

Big is Little, Little is Big

“Little people” can make a big difference for God! And “big people” can do the same “little things” for God that in the end often make the biggest impact for the Kingdom of God. As Jesus said, “The greatest among you will be your servant” (Matthew 23:11).

One of the pastors that we offer Soul Shepherding to is Tom. He actually retired from the church he led years ago and today, like Johnny the Bagger, he works in a grocery store. As a pastor he was used to being the one in charge and the one that everyone listened to, but he didn’t consider himself too important to serve customers.

So today Tom is the pastor of the grocery store! When I visited him in his store recently I watched him greet customers by name with a smile, bag their groceries with care, and engage them in conversation about personal details of their lives that he remembered from previous visits. He retrieved grocery carts in the rain with enthusiasm and he lifted the spirits of fellow employees with encouraging words.

Tom reminds me of Jesus, the Lord and King who worked as an ordinary blue-collar worker, serving customers with a smile. Tom is very special to my heart. You see, on many occasions he has offered pastoral care to my own developmentally disabled twin brothers who are baggers in that same grocery store.

You Are the Light of the World

However big or little your position is in society Jesus says to you (and to me): “You are the light of the world“ (Matthew 5:14).

You. Yes, Jesus is the Light of the World, but he says you are the light of the world that you are in. It is up to you to shine his light by serving the people in your circle of influence, by offering whatever you can that will help them to experience God. No one else is in your position in this world. If you don’t bring God’s light and warmth where you are then it’ll be dark and cold there. You are unique in your personality and giftedness. No one else on this planet has your calling from God. No one else can do for others what you can do.

Let Jesus’ love shine through you to the people near you. And remember that often it’s the little ways that we bless others that have the biggest impact for the kingdom of God.


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