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  • What the Convenience Store Can’t Provide

    My family lived near one of those well-known convenience stores in the early years of my children growing up. You know the one with the numbers in the name. It was always open, rain or shine, and even in the occasional snow storm that blew through. I can recall many winter days when I would lace up the snow boots, wrap carefully the woolen scarf around my neck, slip on the thick gloves, and button up my coat in order to head down to that store. My children were clamoring for a candy bar, or my wife wanted her fountain soda drink, or I was hankering for some whey protein shakes. OK, that last one was a lie. I am very capable of needing some nachos during a bitter blizzard. That small store was perfect for just such trips. It wasn’t a place we would visit when we wanted a “quality dinner out.” Nor, was it a place I would take a close friend as an example of the fine, local cuisine he or she should sample when visiting our city. It’s a convenience store because it’s goal is not to offer “fine,” or “quality” or even something called “cuisine.” The owner’s intent is to quickly meet an everyday desire, while charging about 25% more for the convenience of doing so at 2 a.m., or even during a blizzard.


    But what if my intention is to have a finer experience with food, and a deeper connection with a friend? I know a bagel shop not too far from that same convenience store. In that shop, the food is inexpensive, but it is also unique and refreshing in a way that I would want a friend to “experience” it with me. I would be sharing something of myself by meeting them there. I could talk about my history in discovering the place, the kind of conversations I’ve had with the owner’s wife, the types of new food I’ve tried. If my intention is to share something of myself with a friend, I set a goal to meet in a meaningful place. It’s certainly not only about restaurants. I could tell stories of my history at college by walking the sidewalks of the campus with an old friend. Or, I could share a drive along a country road I frequently traveled when I was a child, pointing out that place where I got scared unexpectedly by some cows walking along the road. My wife and I have a mutual friend that has a get-together each year on Independence Day at their lovely house. That same house is a place we used to meet at on a weekly basis when we attended a Bible study there. I spent many hours in their living room laughing, pondering, crying, both supporting and being supported. The family of that house had an intention to provide a relaxing place where their adult friends could wrestle with the meaning of life. That family had intended to help their friends find value in truth, and they succeeded. When I return to that place I feel accepted and known.


    Too easily, I think, we could all settle for the convenience store approach to life. We could interact with our friends just as we would an all night store. We grab a quick hot dog, when time over a homemade soup is what we needed. We listen to a moderately inspiring TV preacher, when what we truly need sometimes is an expletive-laden conversation with a Christian friend who understands us personally. We might value our spouse in a “convenience store” way, too. We might only talk about the everyday tasks of raising the children, rather than slowly listening to one another, and helping each other be better parents.