If you're choosing a mentor, what sort of characteristics would you look for? How about someone professionally accomplished, a leader in his or her church and community, with a great marriage and terrific kids? Or how about someone who's all but homeless, poorly groomed, jobless, divorced, has little contact with his children, and doesn't smell good? Most of us would choose the former over the latter.
Kevin West probably would have chosen the same way, but when Don walked into his grocery store, everything changed. West had recently resigned from his position as a bank executive. He had participated in some illegal loan practices and was anticipating legal action against him, perhaps even prosecution and jail time. In the meantime, he spent his days running a small grocery store he had bought as an investment.
Don became a regular fixture at the store, and to Kevin's surprise, he looked forward to Don's visits. Not only did they become friends, Don became a spiritual mentor and life coach for Kevin. He had abundant wisdom as well as knowledge of the Bible, which he shared freely with Kevin and others.
Kevin West tells the story of his relationship with Don in Angel in Aisle 3: The True Story of a Mysterious Vagrant, a Convicted Bank Executive, and the Unlikely Friendship that Saved Both Their Lives. The subtitle says it all. These two men, whose lives up to the point of their meeting were so different, found common ground in their need for God and for each other's friendship. The writing's not the greatest. The recreated dialogue and flat story-telling style left a bit to be desired, but the genuineness of the story trumps any literary shortcomings.
Angel in Aisle 3 is a neat story of friendship. More importantly, it is a potent reminder to look past appearances and take time to get to know people. West might have looked at Don's unkempt appearance and closed himself off from a relationship with Don. Who in my life, in my city, could be a friend and mentor, but who is invisible to me now, or who I might avoid if our paths crossed? I pray the Lord will open my eyes, as he did for West and Don, to see the friends and mentors he has for me.
Thanks to Edelweiss and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!