Getting home late from a week away, and needing bread and milk, Anita sent me off to Tesco while she unpacked. There’s a Polish supermarket 3 minutes walk away; one of half a dozen or more in the town, and I thought let’s give it a try.
It was a novel experience. I was completely at sea. Looking at the pictures on packets and jars and with a certain amount of guesswork I collected a few interesting bits and pieces. But a lot of it is packaged differently. I wanted milk but couldn’t work out what was full cream or skimmed or semi skimmed. I enlisted help from a young man filling shelves. He couldn’t help and went off to find his boss. He was very confident on what was semi skimmed, but I wasn’t so sure; In Polish I think it’s all in the numbers.
Then I wanted cream. The same process. But even I could see that what the manager found me was sour cream. ‘I want simple ordinary cream’. ‘No, only this’. By this time customers were taking an interest. ‘I find you cream’. ‘Thankyou so much’. He found what I’d missed because the packaging was different. I reached for a carton of double cream, or at least the polish equivalent; again, it’s in the numbers. ‘No, bad, give heart attack, you will die, you have this one’, he insisted, pointing to a much lower number.
So, already they’re instructing me on the importance of healthy eating. I duly put the lower number into my basket and scurried off before I got any further lectures; I’d chosen full cream milk and didn’t want my new Polish friend to know that.
It was a busy shop, lots of customers, not many English, just me I think. I was pleasantly surprised at the size of my bill. I shall go again, let them get to know me; they’ll see me as an eccentric English, buying things on guesswork and shots in the dark.
So watch out Tesco, Sainsbury et al. You have serious competition. I wonder if they do delivery? I don’t plan to learn Polish.
Lord, you remind us that you are hidden in the face of the stranger, for you said “I was a stranger, and you welcomed me.” In the stranger, you assure us that we can experience your presence, Lord Christ. Help us to welcome the stranger, the hungry, and those without homes in our lives and in welcoming them help us to welcome you.
We remember before God all those who have been uprooted from their homes and communities – people who are compelled to flee for their lives, to leave their land and culture, and live apart from their families. With them, we mourn their loss of dignity, community, and resources.
Lord help us to welcome the stranger.