Today I met Charlie Brown’s wife. At the grocery store. I was running errands for work which involved filling my cart with 36 loaves of bread. As I was crouched down, lifting empty trays and counting in my head, I hear the voice of an older woman behind me: “You must work at a food pantry!” I smiled behind my mask and told her I simply worked at a restaurant. I continued grabbing and counting loaves. The woman had still been standing only a few steps behind me with her friend when she began to talk about her own experience with a food pantry. I heard her say that she was supposed to start volunteering at one, but they never called her back. She was postured toward me, but I couldn’t tell if she was speaking directly to me, or just to her friend.
“My husband just died so I’ve been trying to stay busy. I thought that would’ve been a nice way to do it,” she announced with surprising equanimity. I agreed that volunteering at a food pantry would be fulfilling, and apologized for her loss. She revealed that her husband had been sick for a long time, and as she began to shift away, added, “But I sure do miss him.”
Through this brief encounter I continued to organize my bread in the cart, trying to stay busy myself. This woman had a spirit of strength that made me want to learn something from her, even if only in the small moments between aisles. The tenacity she exuded compelled me to approach her again. I briefly confessed the current state of my own spirits, an explanation for my puffy eyes. I said that her attitude was more encouraging to me than she could know, that I admired her resilience and hoped to mimic it. Without an initial word of response or second thought, she charged me with a hug. A genuine, healing, empathetic hug from a woman whose hurts have far surpassed mine. She didn’t just tell me, but convinced me, that everything was going to be okay.
We exchanged a bit more conversation, in that moment and a few times more throughout the store. I learned that her steadfastness could only be attributed to her faith in God, and I believed her when she said she’d pray for me. “Don’t you leave me now, I better see you here again,” she teased. I asked for her name before we separated. “Connie Brown–and my husband, his name was Charlie. My husband was Charlie Brown.” I couldn’t help but share a laugh with Connie, a moment that felt like she was reminiscing on a thousand memories.
I share this anecdote to say that divine appointments are everywhere. Connie will likely never read this, but she did say that she would try to coordinate her weekly grocery store visits to Thursdays like mine from now on, and I hope she does. I hope I run into her again, maybe in a few weeks, when she can tell me about a new pastime and I can tell her about my travels. This one encounter served to remind me of God’s great sovereignty and faithfulness. He knew all I needed was to see someone full of joy in spite of their pain to remember that I can have that, too. Today might not feel joyful to me, but true joy from the Lord is everlasting–it is unaffected, persistent, and resolute. If you are struggling to pick up your joy today, I pray for you to meet someone like Charlie Brown’s wife.