When Father was ordained to the ministry, another preacher told him to "Keep your shoes polished." Taken literally, it's a good idea, but it has another meaning as a minister of the gospel, and actually, simply as one of God's children. Keeping your shoes polished also means to be aware that people are noticing your feet -- where you go, and how you walk. We experienced a good example of that this evening.
We were shopping at the local mall department store, buying gifts for children in foster care, compliments of a group who had donated the funds. We had the wish lists of 10 teens in foster homes and residential centers, and at the time we were shopping for the clothing they had requested. We'd gathered up a stack of clothes -- special requests, specific sizes, and left them with the clerk at the counter while we continued shopping. When we returned, we discovered that all our items had disappeared - and the clerk was dismayed (as well as Father and I) to realize that while he was busy with another customer, someone else had taken our things to replace on the shelves as returns. All our effort to that point had been undone so quickly! After a brief moment of frustration, we began to re-gather the items, with the clerk's help. With the exception of two things which were apparently not returned to the places we had found them, and one we just forgot to retrieve, we were again ready to continue shopping. After we were finally finished and were checking out, the clerk asked us what church we attended. Father answered him with our church name and location. I didn't realize why he was asking, and tried to explain that we weren't doing this for the church, but for kids in foster care. He said, "Oh, that wasn't why I was asking -- it was something you said that made me ask." Father figured it out first, and laughed and said something about them losing our things, and we didn't lose our cool. I told the clerk that Father was actually the pastor at the church we attended. He and the clerk went on and visited, and the young man shared that he was a newly licensed minister, and had just preached his first sermon last Sunday. They had quite a long conversation (especially considering that the clerk was supposed to be working, and we had LOTS of shopping to do) about how the Lord leads you to know what to preach, how He prepares the congregation, and other related things. I finally left them to go to the ladies' department, and after choosing a coat for another teen, returned to find them still engrossed in conversation. We finalized that purchase, and knew we must move on. However, not before Father had shared his contact information, and (never passing up an opportunity) suggested the young man consider being a foster parent.
I thought afterward, "What if we had responded differently? Would he have recognized us as church-goin' folk? What if we'd responded in anger, and then it came up later that Father is a preacher?" There have certainly been times we have not acted as we should; what if this had been one of those times? It made me wonder how many times have we missed opportunities to share our testimonies and the truth of the gospel with others. We have a light (THE Light), and should let it shine brightly. In fact, we should remember much more often that others are watching, and we need to "keep our shoes polished!"