The man who pushes a mop and carries boxes at the Circle K in Jacksonboro is probably not an angel. I have seen him numerous times, and the evidence is that he is flesh and blood. People often are speaking to him and laughing when I see him. Despite the evidence, he reminds me of a verse from the Letter to the Hebrews: “Do not neglect hospitality, for through it some have unknowingly entertained angels.”
“Entertaining Angels” was, in fact, the title of a film released more than 20 years ago on the life of Dorothy Day. The Circle K man, who usually wears a fading red polo and has yellowing teeth, seems like someone that Servant of God Dorothy could have welcomed in a Catholic Worker House.
He is a person one might describe as simple. If there is such a thing, he could be considered a typical unskilled laborer. During the January days when it was unusually icy and cold, he was out early tending to walkways and the islands around gas pumps. He did the heavy lifting when deliveries resumed. He is usually soft spoken, but in early January he was talking more loudly than usual — the cap and ear muffs, unaccustomed as he was to them, didn’t tune him in to his own volume.
This man is steadily employed, but, like so many, he could end up unemployed with no warning and no recourse. So that is why I think of him as the type of person who might someday be a client in a food line or a frequenter of thrift shops that sell warm shirts and slacks for $2.99.
On one of our chilly mornings, he welcomed me at 7:30 a.m. with a hug. It was the second time in a month that he had hugged me and told me that he misses me when I don’t stop in. I’ve seen the man a few times a week for years, have smiled at him and said good morning, but this was new.
So, being a Biblical type, I began to think of him as the angel to whom I have shown hospitality by being a nice, ungrumpy customer.
On further reflection, though, I realize that he has actually shown me tremendous hospitality. He is consistently cheerful, though I am sure he is up before 5 a.m. He is polite and solicitous.
Perhaps some instinct in him told him to deliver a December hug just before I learned I had walking pneumonia. Perhaps another instinct told him that the second hug would be an appropriate greeting on the anniversary of my mother’s January death. Perhaps a preacher somewhere between Jacksonboro and Ravenel recently used Hebrews 13:2 as a text, and it hit home with him. Who knows?
What I do know is that my encounters with the man at Circle K have reminded me that hospitality and kindly greetings go a long way in a sometimes cold world. As the verse before Hebrews 13: 2 advises, “Let mutual love continue.”
Sister Pamela Smith, SSCM, is the Secretary for Education and Faith Formation at the Diocese of Charleston. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Image: “Some have Entertained Angels Unawares”, Edward Clifford, 1871