I saw God in Chick-Fil-A. I promise this isn’t the start of a bad country song.
Kiah Gaskin is an amazing mother to Isaac and Laurel, an incredible and graceful wife to Jason, a really gifted writer, and someone who cares deeply about health inequities, and is doing some incredible work and research that is impacting the lives of children who struggle with obesity issues all throughout the state of North Carolina.
I saw God in Chick-Fil-A.
I promise this isn’t the start of a bad country song.
I was eating with my family and noticed a woman sitting alone next to us.
She started to complement our children: “You have beautiful babies.” “Her hair looks like a princess.”
It was a sweet interaction- we smiled and thanked her. Jason took the kids into the play area, and I continued eating my sandwich.
“No honey, go back to the playground and keep playing,” she said. Not to mine- but to her own. A girl about 7 or 8 came to sit with her for a minute, then happily ran back to the slide.
Then the woman started small talk with the Chick-Fil-A staff person who was cleaning the floors. I couldn’t help noticing that the small talk had turned into something more- the woman was holding back tears.
“It’s her 5 year anniversary,” she said. “5 years today since my daughter died, on her birthday. She would have been 33 today.”
The little girl returned to her grandmother who was visibly distraught- “Grandma what’s wrong?”
“I’m just sad.”
“Why are you sad this time?”
“We’ve got to go get the flowers to put on your mother’s grave tonight. It’ll be OK. It’s good for us to do.”
The little girl smiled and ran back to the play area.
By herself again and still holding back tears, it was the perfect opportunity for me to say something to the woman. Offer a warm touch, a prayer- anything.
But I did nothing. I looked down, kept eating my French fries. I was distraught by the sadness of it all. Judgmental and diagnosing thoughts raced through my mind. Why is she letting her feelings show so much with her granddaughter? She’s just a little girl. She’s being exposed to way too much. Hasn’t she been through enough?
Finally, the little girl ran back to her grandmother and they got up to leave. The grandmother tickled her back, then grabbed her hand. They smiled at each other as they walked hand in hand out into the parking lot.
I’m still trying to process what I witnessed. My first reaction was guilt. Why didn’t I say anything to her? Why didn’t I offer to pray for her? People who don’t even believe in God have prayed for me- or at least offered words of comfort when I’m suffering. What kind of Christian am I? What kind of human being am I?
I’m starting to realize that maybe it wasn’t she who needed praying for. Maybe it was me.
Hope was happening before my eyes, and I missed it. This grandmother and granddaughter were learning how to be strong together and I was privileged to see a snapshot of their journey to resiliency- yet my own fear-rooted acuity got in the way of experiencing the Holy that was happening in their knowing glances, the grasp of their hands.
Praying for people is good. We Christians are called to pray. But prayer can’t be isolated from opening ourselves up to stories, seeing people in their fullness, and the transformation of our own hearts.
So I’m praying for that woman and her granddaughter, yes. But I’m also praying that God would continue challenging my own way of seeing people. Pray that instead of seeing loneliness, I would look for togetherness. Pray that instead of seeing scarcity, I would look for abundance. Because that’s what God sees. Hope is among us!
That little girl is going to be just fine. And so am I.