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.