Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Only Ten Dollars

Recently I received a check from the school. It was additional funds that were above and beyond the cost of my tuition and books for the semester. I am not rich. Not even close. So this little bit of extra money was appreciated. I decided that I would use a **little** bit of it to get my kids each something for their birthdays this year, and the rest I would use towards bills.

I decided to get them all three the same thing, and that I would get the gifts now and then hide them away until their birthdays (January, March and June). So, the other day I stopped in at SuperTarget and grabbed the said items. I was sort of in a hurry. And when I know **exactly** what I want, I mean it when I say, "I'm just gonna run in, grab this and run out."

Anyway, because I am in a hurry, I pick the shortest line. 2 people in front of me. The cashier was just finished ringing up this gentleman's order and proceeded to tell him the grand total. He is having a hard time understanding her English and she cannot speak Spanish. The cashier had already loaded his bags into his cart, and they were packed full of groceries. I am not sure how many mouths he has to feed, but my guess is a lot. The cashier is explaining to the man he doesn't have enough money. He is not understanding. She is pointing to the digital display, trying to explain once again that the amount of cash he had given her was not enough.

My first thought was, "Oh great! And I thought this was the SHORT line!" But then, I glimpsed my attitude in the face of the woman in front of me. She let out not one, not two, but THREE heavy sighs, adding a major eye-roll, which she turned and displayed for the rest of us as if to say, "Can you believe this???", and topping it all off with her hands-on-hips-I-am-too-important-to-have-to-stand-here-and-witness-this move. The lady behind me jumped on that ship and added two loud heavy sighs of her own, along with a rhythmic tapping of her undoubtedly, name-brand stilettos.

I realized that my being irritated was not going to help. I also realized that my initial feeling of exasperation was just about as ridiculous as the looks on these two ladies faces. At this point, the cashier decides that since he doesn't understand English, perhaps she could speak LOUDER, cuz that might just help. As she is explaining that he is about ten dollars short, he is digging in his pockets. The thought occurs to me that he doesn't even realize he is short. I think that he thought she was asking if he had the exact change. Like, if you have two pennies, etc. He digs in his pockets and turns them out empty. She then says, again VERRRRRY LOUDLY and now EXTREMELY SLOWLY, "YOU...DON'T...HAVE...ENOUGH...MONEY!" The man shakes his head "no". Again, I do not think he even understood.

Cereal. Spaghetti noodles. Oranges. Target brand diapers. Ground beef. Bell peppers. These were the items I could see peeking from some of his grocery bags.

Tap. Tap. Tap. The woman behind me clicked her shoes a little more loudly; each tap growing with intensity. The woman in front of me begins to look like a defective bobble-head; the constant shaking of her head from side-to-side. I could practically hear the clucking of her tongue.

Ten Dollars. He was short ten dollars. I had ten dollars cash, in my wallet. It wouldn't take away from **my** budget to give him the ten dollars. After all, this was *extra* money. Could I find a use for the ten dollars? Sure I could. Like I said, I am not rich.

However, just because I have never stood in a line at the grocery store as time stood still and glared at me for not having enough cash, doesn't mean I haven't ever stressed over being able to feed my family. I stress about it. All.The.Time. In fact, over the last two years, I have spent many a countless nights stressing over how I would pay this bill or that bill, or what I could make for dinner the next three nights with the few cans left in my cupboard. I cannot tell you all of the times I have felt like I could not handle just One.More.Thing. And it has been in times like these wherein somebody will have put an envelope of money in my mailbox, or a 20 dollar bill will have turned up in my old jacket, or someone else has brought me dinner or groceries, or let me "borrow" a can of diced tomatoes, a tub of cool whip or even a bag of chocolate chips. I cannot tell you the times I have come home to find my lawn magically mowed or my leaves mysteriously raked or my weeds pulled or my sidewalks and driveway cleared of snow. I am one person. How could I possibly "pay" each of these people back? Especially the anonymous ones...

Nonetheless, this man needed help. Right Now. He didn't have time to go home and see if per chance there was a ten dollar bill in an old coat. It was my chance to pay it forward. And the other thing too, I told myself, I KNOW where this money is going. He is using it to feed and care for his family. He isn't buying drugs or alcohol with it. He isn't gambling with it.

In reality, only about two minutes had passed. And yet, everything seemed slowed; the ticking of the clock filling the space of time, and the sighing and the tapping continued, each echoing a bit more.

"I've got it," I said, my own voice almost unrecognizable to me. I don't know why, but I was shaking as I reached my hand in my purse and fumbled to release the clasp of my wallet. The cashier and the two women gasped, almost in unison. The woman behind me looked at me with shock; the woman in front of me with disgust, and the cashier with disbelief. "I've got it," I said again, reaching out and handing the ten dollar bill to the cashier. I mean it was TEN DOLLARS! And it wasn't really even *my* money, really. I mean, it was given to me, but still.

I didn't like the looks on the women's faces and I decided that I didn't want others to see that in me. Instead I wanted someone to be able to look at me and see His image in my countenance. I wanted to be able to feel good about **finally** being able to help someone. Anyone. All of a sudden, ten dollars didn't seem like so much. I mean, really, with everything I have been given, and especially through the kind acts of others, it was **only** ten dollars. How could I NOT offer?

Isn't this what I want anyway? I asked myself. When I pray, often times I tell the Lord that I will be an instrument in his hands and that if there is anyone who could benefit from any service or deed that I could do, that I might be made aware of it. How do I NOT know that this may have been my chance to be *that* instrument. What if I would have ignored the prompting to help? What blessings or other opportunities might I have missed out on?

I know that some people would call me foolish or wasteful; saying that it wasn't *my* responsibility to help this man out, that he should have planned ahead a little better, or known his circumstance a little more. They may say that I wasted that money on someone else's family, when I could have used it for my own. I mean, that's about 4 gallons of milk right there.

I was still shaking by the time I got up to pay for my own three simple items. The cashier thanked me for doing what I did. I didn't really say much. I think my head was still thinking about all of this, in terms of my relationship with God. Then the cashier went on to say, "This is not the first time this has happened. He has come through my line before, and he has come up short before. It is sooo frustrating. Usually, I have to find someone who speaks Spanish to tell him to put something back."

I sort of gave her a half-nod as I took my receipt and goods and walked out to the car. I opened the door, sat in my front seat and began to sob like a baby. Not because I regretted giving up the Ten Dollars. Not because I felt like a do-gooder, though I did feel good about helping. But I was moved because this thought hit me:

How many times in my life have I come up short? How many times have I taken my case to the Lord in spite of feeling inadequate or unworthy to receive His blessings? And God doesn't say, "Again? This isn't the first time this has happened; you've come down this road before. This is so frustrating." God doesn't call the Savior in and ask Him to explain to us why we can't have what we just might so desperately need at that moment. He doesn't scold us, telling we should have planned a little better or known our circumstance more. No. The Savior paid the price for us. We are saved by His grace, after all we can do.

I am by no means trying to say that I think I was this guy's savior. But it hit me that this man gave all he had and was in need of someone to come to his mercy. Justice meant the items would have to be paid for. But Mercy meant that someone else could step in and pay the remaining debt, after all he could do.

I cried because at that moment it solidified for me, in my heart, how much my Heavenly Father truly does love me and that because He loves me He sent His son. And not only did He do that, but he continues to bless me through "Angels among us" who step in from time to time to bring me that bag of chocolate chips or shovel my walk. And sometimes-- sometimes He lets me know He loves me by letting ME have to opportunity to pay it forward.

Truly, it was only Ten Dollars.

27 comments:

pinkelephant said...

Thank you for posting this. We pray so we can be an instrument of God but I wonder how many times we actually miss the opportunities just because we don't realize it is the time for us to serve when presented right in front of us.

I bet the $10 will be passed forward for a long time just because you listened.

Megan said...

That is so great that you were able to help that man out, even if it is something that happens with him more times than the cashier would like. You were able to pay it forward, as you said, and what a great feeling that was for you. I love the reminder of Jesus and how he doesn't turn his back on us when we've done the same foolish thing once again. Thank you for sharing!!

S Club Mama said...

I didn't expect to cry so early this morning. But you're so sweet! What a great gesture of our Lord. And we all fall short - of money, of patience, of perfection. God sent you to help that man, to pay it forward. :) Bless you for heeding his call.

Deborah said...

Beautiful post, Emma! Thank you for sharing.

RhondaLue said...

Thanks, Emma. :*)

Tonya said...

Great post! Well said!

Puphigirl said...

Oh great. I just finished putting on my make up getting ready to meet with a teacher and now I gotta go touch up because of the tears shed while reading this post.

It is amazing on how when we help others it we are helping ourselves too. It is great that you were able to payback those who have served you by serving someone else.

Denise @ Sunflowers, Chocolate and Little Boys said...

Awesome! God is so good and we can find him in so many unusual places. I am sure that man was very thankful for the angel in the checkout line. His baby had clean diapers and food.

Vickie said...

What a wonderful thing that you did!! I am a little disturbed that the one lady actually gave you a disgusted look. Why? I mean the line was going to go faster because you were helping.

Thanks for sharing.

andrew's mom said...

Emma I sooooo appreciate you and your outlook. Thank you for helping me put things in perspective!

BlueCastle said...

Beautiful. Really, really beautiful. God bless you, Emma.

Ashley said...

What a gift. He was very lucky you were behind him in line that day. Maybe your spirit will rub off on the other two women and they will 'pay it forward'.

greenolive said...

You just made the world a little brighter.

Susie said...

What a beautiful post! God spoke through you today: "I got it":-)

Holli and Billy said...

I LOVED this post! Good for you! You really did the right thing.

okeydokeyifine said...

Ahh, that's my girl!

And it took me quite a few minutes to read through it. Even though I could tell the ending at the start I wanted to read it all the way through.

Sweet Sassy Molassy said...

Although I didn't cry because I don't have ovaries or whatever I must say it was a good read. Loved the "tongue clucking" part. And I really could envision the sighs, the toe tapping, and the general mood of indignation. Sometimes I wish I had the resources to pay for the old peoples groceries as they wait until the items are rung up BEFORE they even dig the checkbook out of the purse.

Christiejolu said...

That is great! Really!

Tulsi said...

Thank you for this. It reminded me of a situation with my mom when we were little. Someone helped her out in the check out line. Probably more than once. I've always hoped it would happen to me because of that situation. I've been in a similar line with an older person writing a check or counting change. I've never tapped my toe or turned around thinking the rest of the line was in agreement that this was the worst thing in the world. Even if I felt a little peeved for a second, I, too, didn't like the looks on their faces or like how they behaved. I've been asked why I just stood there looking ok. What is the big deal? I would have had to wait in another line, too. Oh, yeah, when tourists who don't speak American (American and English are a tad different) well are trying to figure out what to do. Since my mom lives in Switzerland that is a good opener for me to help them a little.

ann said...

We were driving down the road the other day We saw a man on the side of the road holding a sign. I quickly turned my head and acted like he wasn't there! Jared on the other hand said give me 5 bucks Very sharply i said "NO! you don't know him!!" The traffice was moving so i gave in. Jared gave him the 5 dollors! All he said was when Heavenly Father asks me if i helped the stranger on the side of the road today i can say yes.

not sure what he will do with the money or if he even has kids to feed. As I looked back on that i'm glad he helped that man! who are we to judge them!

Good for you for paying it forward!

kanaboke said...

I needed this...*Tears Streaming Down my Face*

Catherine said...

So not only did you help the man out but you helped me out today. It's just what I needed to read today. Thanks!

mrbusdr said...

I don't have ovaries either but it still made me cry. Good job!!!

Steven said...

Emma,Do you remember me? I am your cousin Laura. Your Aunt Glenda's daughter. Anyway, my son Steven found your blog and read it to us. I was so impressed!! You have a talent with writing and this blog is worthy of publication. Mom and I think that you should submit this post to the Ensign magazine. It touched us and others should be given the same opportunity to be touched. Keep paying it forward and the service to you will continue. Aunt Glenda sends her love. Love you, Laura

greenolive said...

Hi Laura, this is Aunt Patty's Sarah. How fun that your on here. I totally agree that Emma could publish her blog. Do you have a blog too? Most of us Miller girls have blogs on here. It's been a great way for us to keep in contact even with the distances between us.

Craig Zhivago said...

Hello,

That was an awesome blog entry. I have a quick story to share. My family and I were living in Monticello, Utah. I went to the local Taco Time to get some food. I tried to pay with a check, but we had just moved there. So they wouldn't take my check. Some guy completely out of the blue that I had never seen before pulled out his debit card and paid for us. No questions asked. That was about about $25. The reason I'm telling you this is I'll never forget him and this nice gentleman will never forget you either. Also the two ladies in line will never forget what you did either. I'm hoping when they think of you, it will prick their conscience.

Craig

The Willeyes said...

I don't know why I didn't see this when you posted it so long ago...but I am so glad I saw it today! Thank you for sharing this, you have made my life better and obviously someone else's too! Thanks for reminders