Our church staff was attending a one-day leadership conference in Anderson, South Carolina. When we arrived at the Holiday Inn Express on the Wednesday evening before, conference volunteers Dan and Leslie were waiting. They had a spread of delicious food for us in the lounge—barbeque, potato salad, cole slaw, and chocolate chip cookies—all homemade. And pounds and pounds of fresh boiled shrimp from the South Carolina coast!
I evaluated the situation. I always do that, though I don’t think about doing it or even realize I’m doing it. It’s an automatic action, a coping skill, an adaption talent. I thought, “Buffet line…I’ll need to balance my plate on top of my prosthetic left hand while dipping the food with my right hand. Or maybe I can find a slight open spot on the counter where I can sit the edge of my plate and lean against it while dipping. Barbeque sauce…I might be able to get the top off of the bottle. If not, I’ll ask one of my coworkers to help me. Unpeeled shrimp…Maybe I’ll skip the shrimp. No, I really want some. I’ll only get three or four. Then if I can’t get the first one peeled, I’ll leave them on my plate.”
As I started through the line, Dan noticed that I was struggling a bit with my plate. “May I help you with that?” he asked. I gratefully accepted.
Leslie spoke up, “Does everybody know how to peel shrimp? If not, I’ll show you the technique.”
I admitted I didn’t know how; I was going to need a lesson. Six-foot-five Dan leaned down and quietly inquired, “Would you like for me to peel your shrimp?”
I smiled at him and said, “That would be great.”
The food was so good, especially the shrimp. I caught myself mumbling phrases after every bite like “oh, my gosh, this is amazing” and “this is the best shrimp I’ve ever eaten.” About the time my shrimp was gone, Dan made his way to my table and asked, “Would you like some more shrimp?”
I blurted out, “Yes!” He sat down at the next table, peeled a dozen shrimp, and placed them in front of me. I ate all but one, which I generously gave away. (Did I actually eat fifteen shrimp?)
I learned as much from Dan on that Wednesday evening as I did from the conference on Thursday. His actions challenged me to:
- Be on the lookout for people who are struggling.
- Offer to help them; don’t wait to be asked.
- Offer quietly, not to be noticed.
- Peel shrimp for people—not just four, but sixteen!
Never walk away from someone who deserves help; your hand is God’s hand for that person. Proverbs 3:27 (MSG)