I was just trying to buy toilet paper. Okay- and maybe some emergency chocolate.  I left with a basketful of random domesticity and anti-inflammatories with a side of humility.

While trying to simultaneously locate my debit card, my CVS card and unload my cart- I overheard the following conversation:

“Yo, ya. S’all good. it just grazed him. They sent him home.”

Even though I live in the suburbs, I know that  the “grazing” he was talking about was not pastoral. It’s a gunshot reference. Not good. Now- I’ve never heard a non-fictional person discuss a friends gunshot wound before so- all kinds of alarms went off in my brain. Mostly saying: “WARNING! DANGER!” I thought about bolting- but that would draw attention to me…. and well- we really needed the toilet paper. Instead- while stealthily continuing to look for my debit card-(I can never find that thing)  I moved my purse from the grocery cart-seat (A bad habit I have that started about the time my purse started weighing  the same as a toddler.)  to my shoulder. Just in case. (People who know people who’ve been shot are always purse-snatchers- duh.)

“Yo- I think he’ll be okay.” Continued the conversation behind me.

“There is a thug behind me at CVS!”  In an epic battle of self control over panic-I continued unloading my cart. And eavesdropping…. as a precaution. (No one robs a CVS while talking about gunshots loudly on their cell. right? I mean that just draw suspicion…)  I may have been wrong. I am admittedly sheltered- but- I risked it. Like I said: we needed toilet paper. )

When I could stand it no longer- I looked behind me. (Just in case I had to pick him out of a lineup, of course.) He was more than a thug- he was a caricature of a thug.   From his crooked ball-cap to his droopy drawers defying the laws of physics over boxers that I shouldn’t be able to see because underwear is private but he was showing them anyway- and a sleeveless t-shirt I’ve heard referred to with a term for domestic violence.(Which I am against- just FYI.) Yup. A thug. Talking about gunshot wounds.

A real live thug. I prayed for protection.

Then, I loudly told the checkout girl that “I HAVE NO CASH.”  (So he wouldn’t mug me in the parking lot- of course.) and I swiped my card. When I turned  to re swipe it because I was so distracted by the thugness- I put it in upside down the first time-  I broke the cardinal rule of avoidance: I made eye-contact.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am incapable of making eye contact without saying something. But WHAT do you say to someone you just got busted for eavesdropping on talking about a gunshot wound?

I still don’t know- (Emily Post has no suggestions for that… justsayin’.)  What came out was this: “Ummmm I’m sorry- I was eavesdropping- did you say someone was hurt? I… I  hope they’re ok. I’ll be praying for him.”

I held my breath. I thought: ” I am about to get stabbed for eavesdropping on a conversation that I didn’t want to hear and couldn’t avoid.”

Instead- I was met with the sweetest giant man-boy smile and a “Thanks- He’s Okay- just grazed ‘im.”

I know that kind of giant- man boy smile. I have giant man boy’s at my house. Man- boys I love desperately. My sons. I saw their smiles in his.

I smiled back. My heart slowed down. I put my purse back down on the seat.

Under all that thugness- he is just a giant man-boy.

A giant man-boy thug- who is desperately loved by God- even when he’s talking about gunshot wounds…..

I took my toilet paper, my receipt and my remaining shreds of dignity and left. Without being mugged.

Next time, I hope I don’t just see a thug and look for ways to escape. Next time, I hope I see the desperately loved man-boy underneath.

“Dear Lord- every time I think I have my prejudices under control- you reveal another one…. please help me to reach out in love even when I am afraid. Help me to see people as you do- beyond the veneer- whether it’s a veneer of thug-ness or affluence or or jerk-ness- help me see people as you do— through love.

“I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”” Revelation 21: 2-4NIV

No more thugs or gunshot wounds or fear……..let your love change our world- amen.

I glanced