I’m starting a new call as the director of global mission at First Presbyterian Church of Atlanta. This means uprooting my family and moving to a new city. My daughter in kindergarten is taking this transition pretty well, but we did have to sweeten the deal by letting her pick out the paint colors for her new room.
I moved to Atlanta to start my new call on November 29, the first Sunday of Advent. My family won’t be able to join me until December 23, so I have a month to “prepare the way” for their arrival. One of my tasks is to get my daughter’s room painted. So on my first day off, I went to Home Depot to buy the paint and supplies. I haven’t done too much interior painting, so I probably looked a bit overwhelmed as I was picking out brushes, rollers and drop-cloths. A man timidly approached me and gave me a hand-written business card with his phone number that read: Jesus Painting, Moving, Demolition and Light Construction. The card had been written on cardstock cut from another package with a remnant of a random logo on the back. I asked Jesus how much he would charge me to help paint an interior bedroom, we agreed on a price, he helped me carry my supplies to the front of Home Depot, we checked out and loaded into my car.
On the drive from Home Depot to my house, I learned that Jesus grew up near Acapulco in Mexico. He has been in the U.S. for 12 years and is married with two kids, including one the same age as my daughter. Jesus works for a moving company, but the work comes in waves; sometimes he is busier than he can handle with lots of hours and overtime, and sometimes there is no work, so he hangs out at the Home Depot to pick up some extra work to support his family. We stopped to grab some food on the way back to my house and broke bread together before we got to work. I asked him if he likes soccer, one of my universal entry points of discussion. I learned that while Jesus does enjoy watching soccer, his real love is basketball. He is probably about 5 feet 10 inches, and played for some semi-pro teams in Mexico before moving to the U.S. He still plays rec league and even enters some tournaments here in Georgia. He told me that we need to look for a hoop so he can show me his moves and post up on me. I’m 6 feet 4 inches, so I was impressed with his confidence!
We spent the afternoon painting my daughter’s room bubble gum pink and princess purple. We laughed a lot and swapped stories. We share a love of authentic Mexican food, a love of our respective families, a love of God and a love of good jokes and good people to hang out with. At the end of the day, I had to go to an event so I drove Jesus to the bus stop where he could catch a bus home. We said our goodbyes and I promised I would call him for more help in the weeks to come, which I will do. I am an off-the-charts extrovert who gets pretty lonely rattling around an empty house by myself as I wait for my family to get here. I’m also not a skilled painter and was in need of some help, though I was probably too proud to admit that.
On Friday morning in the aisles of Home Depot, I found a glimpse of the grace of the season of Advent through the timid approach of my new friend Jesus. As we prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ and continue to prepare our hearts and minds for Christ’s return, let’s keep our eyes, ears and hearts open for little glimpses of grace in the everyday interactions we have with the people around us, strangers and friends alike.
GREG ALLEN-PICKETT serves as the director of global mission at First Presbyterian Church of Atlanta. Prior to coming to FPC, Greg was the general manager for Presbyterian World Mission of the PC(USA). Greg has an amazing partner in ministry in his wife, Jessica, and a gregarious and compassionate daughter in elementary school, along with a ridiculous lab-beagle mix dog named Luna.