"What can you do with a bunch of pitted dates?," the cashier asked me, scanning two bags of dates and a flowering amaryllis bulb.
"I have a friend who is going through a hard time and I wanted to bring these to her. She loves them and I hope it will bring comfort," I respond.
WE all have a comfort food.
Whether it's chocolate, or chicken; ice cream, or fast food, there is something that comforts us in the familiarity of certain items.
I've never actually eaten a date, but today, I bought two bags in hopes that they would bring comfort to someone I've only exchanged a few real sentences with. She is my former neighbor, an immigrant from Iraq. Someone I've been thinking about these past few weeks. Her husband moved to the United States years before she arrived. He was an engineer in their former life; now, a self-employed cab driver. He was able to support his family and saw the sacrifice as small compared to the safety his family gained in their move.
My kids used to play with theirs in the street (our house was on a rarely traveled corner of the neighborhood), and there are many times our children would be covered in chalk and dirt, happy and smiling as they had tea parties in each other's front driveways. I miss those days. When we decided to move the whole family seemed genuinely sad. They tried to convince us to stay, but they knew as much as we did that a family of 6 was pretty squished in such a small space.
Fast forward to today. I'm tired. In old clothes with holes and tears, but I feel a prompting. Something gently urging me to go check on my old neighbors. I want to bring them something that demonstrates they are not forgotten, that they matter - that they belong, no matter their faith or nation of origin. So, I call on an old friend. Someone who herself converted to Islam, but had attended youth group with me in high school. I ask if there is a flower that is significant in Islam, much like roses signify Mary to Catholics. She states that there is not, but one thing that many Muslims have in common is a love for dates. Apparently, the Prophet Muhammad ate them regularly. When I ring my neighbor's doorbell I hear a child screaming. A couple minutes go by, and I decide it might be best to simply leave the gifts on their doorstep, when she opens the door. Her face lights up and I get the first hug I've ever received from her. She welcomes me inside and asks about my kids. She takes the flower, smells it, then lights up when she sees the bags of dates. "I eat these every day with my kids!," she exclaimed, "Thank you!"
I let her know that I'm thinking about her, we talk for a moment, then she gives me another hug before I leave.
I walk away knowing that the prompting of the Holy Spirit is what led me here. Our God is one of unity, not divisiveness. He desired that I reach out to the people I spoke to today and I obeyed. In this obedience, I was able to accomplish some sort of work - not by my own power - but by one of a higher authority.
Listen to where the Holy Spirit is prompting you in your own life. Do not be afraid to follow those prompts and let the Lord guide you in his desires for you.
Nothing will ever bring more joy than following His plan... even when that plan involves standing at your neighbor's door, holding a bag of dates.