Africa is a fascinating land with people who continually amaze me with their smiles and laughter.
Recently, while at the airport in Johannesburg, South Africa, I did what we all do after a long flight. I went to the toilet.
At this airport, all the bathrooms have attendants. These people work long hours five or six days a week to keep the airport bathrooms clean and stocked. They probably make more from tips than they do an hourly wage. Having traveled in plenty of places where filthy and unstocked restrooms are common, I appreciate this service.
I was tired. Twenty-four hours airport-to-airport (with a mask on the entire time) left me exhausted and, quite frankly, grumpy.
As I walked into the restroom, a young man greeted me, “Welcome to my palace!”
His smile alone was incredible, but what he said blew my mind.
Welcome to my what?
I think he could see the stunned look on my face, so he slowly repeated himself, as if he thought English might have been unknown to me. “Sir, wel…come…to…my…palace.” And he smiled again.
I didn’t know what to say, so I smiled in return and moved on.
While doing my business, I could hear him singing.
“Hallelujah, Hallelujah, oh Father, you are good to me. Hallelujah, Hallelujah, oh God, my God, you are so good to me.”
Keep in mind, as he was singing this song, I could hear him cleaning the toilet next to me and then mopping the floor (probably for the 100th time that day).
I started to cry.
I was humbled and amazed.
The young twenty-something man, probably illiterate, undoubtedly poor, who spends his entire day cleaning up after people, was worshiping.
And with joy.
When I pulled my pants up and pulled my heart together, I whispered, “Jesus, why is it so easy for me to be grumpy?”
Once again, I realized how automatic it is for me to let my circumstances determine my joy.
As I left, I gave him a big tip.
He was shocked.
Then he smiled again, bowed his head in honor of me, and said once more, “Thank you for visiting my palace.”
I could barely say it, but I said, “Thank you for making this…this place…(as I gestured behind me), a house of worship. You have blessed me today more than you will ever know.”
I might never enter another public toilet without thinking about him. And that’s a good thing—a very good thing.
“Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”
1 Corinthians 10:31