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And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Hebrews 10:24-25

One Sunday, the strangest thing made me cry at church. It was a green chayote squash, an obscure Brazilian variety, with a puckered growth on one end that looked like a grimacing mouth. It was the ugliest piece of produce I’d ever seen. And it was wearing googly eyes, plastic ones, that someone had glued onto it. My five year old, Sam, was holding it proudly as he emerged from his Sunday School classroom. One of his teachers had spotted it in the produce aisle during the week and thought, “Sam would love this” (he did), and bought it for him. I saw that squash, and I cried – and not because it was frowning at me.

A few weeks later, I was hoping to attend a post-church lunch hosted by a friend, but the kids were sick and I had to miss it. Afterwards, another friend stopped by my house, and she was holding a single green onion, the long green stem poking out of her fist. “The host sent this to you,” She said. “He was sorry you guys missed the party.” I saw that onion, and I cried – and not in the usual way people cry over onions. 

Then, recently, while my husband was traveling, two women from my community group texted me: “Can we come over to play with your kids?” They showed up at my door on a weeknight with a giant bag of kettle corn, took my two preschoolers on a walk during the squeakiest hour of the day, and then did my dishes while I put the kids to bed. After they left, I thought about that sink, that popcorn, and I cried – because of the love and friendship they represented.  

The teacher who bought the squash didn’t know about my son’s weekly pre-church anxiety, or that his only friend at church had recently moved away. The host who sent the green onion didn’t know about the disappointment of that particular Sunday, being stuck at home with sick grumpy kids. The friends who brought the popcorn didn’t know about my own insistence on self-sufficiency, of wanting to be okay on my own, of preferring to hide the evening chaos and the post-dinner wake of disaster in my kitchen. Rosaria Butterfield says that you can show someone hospitality in their own house. If that’s true, then I think you can show hospitality to others anywhere, with anything offered in a spirit of Christlike love. Hospitality is the generous reception of one another, and I have never experienced a more tangible spiritual embrace than through those three pieces of produce. 

The squash, the onion, the popcorn–three slightly offbeat everyday objects that I’ve never associated with spiritual friendship–transformed into a vehicle for vital connection. They were tangible things I could hold in my hands, reminders transmitted through all five of my senses that God has placed me in a family. Even a googly-eyed $1 squash, or a freshly-picked green onion in a vase, offered in Christlike love, says You are loved. You are thought about. I will share in the little details of your life, the crumbs and the sinkful of dishes, oh and where’s your broom? You are known. You are cared for. You are not alone. You are connected. You can ask for help, you can offer it. And that’s something anyone can manage to give. That sort of giving doesn’t require a budget or PTO, a PhD or a Nobel Prize. But it does take open eyes, ready on the lookout for the simplest opportunities. And possibly a trip to the produce aisle.