The following either describes me or the people I encounter. You can decide which.
I was in the grocery store with my friend who sees all and knows all. He watched me as I greeted the numerous people we encountered from my church.
“Every one of those people looked relieved the moment they saw you,” he pointed out.
I’ve considered that. I had known those people long enough to understand their quiet desperations. If they saw me as a helper, then maybe I was more successful in that community than I had thought.
However, that’s not always how people react when they see me coming.
Once, in the mall, a woman did an about face when she saw me coming.
“Wonder what she’s feeling guilty about,” my father, a longtime preacher, murmured as we watched her dart into a women’s clothing store.
They do feel guilty sometimes. Once, when I smiled a greeting to someone in a store, the first thing she did was explain why she’d missed church: “I’ve been outta town!”
Some latch onto me to tell me of the latest “emergency.” “Preacher, WHAT are we going to do with all those crying babies during worship.” Those are the ones I’d like to walk away from.
I make some people cry just by walking into the room.
Usually it happens when they need to talk to me about a specific ordeal. I don’t feel bad. They’re showing they trust me by letting down their guard.
Then I’ve seen others stop their furtive conversations the moment they see me. Usually, this occurs at church gatherings. They change expressions and offer a hearty but phony, “hello there, preacher!” (I know what you’re thinking and I’m not paranoid).
When I’m new to a community, the most common look I get is one of polite caution—they want to see what kind of guy I am before they show too much. Fair enough.
I think the thing I hate the worst is when I walk into a room and no one even looks up to see me. It’s worse than the exasperated expression that says, “Oh no, not you again.”
My favorite greeting is when a person’s face lights up because he is glad to see not his preacher or accuser, but his friend. It’s usually accompanied with a hug.