She woke early this winter morning, hoping to be able to run to the store before he woke up. Ever since her husband had been hurt, he needed so much care. It would be a long road, but eventually he would be able to walk again. In the meantime she had to save every penny. So cable had gone. Then the internet. Then long distance calls. Worker's comp just wasn't cutting it.
She dressed quietly and peered out the window. From the street light she could see the snow coming down in soft drifts, peaceful, just like life in a snow globe. If only she felt that way in her own heart.
Her husband stirred, and she froze. If he woke up now, she wouldn't make it to the store today. They had no bread or milk. Or meat for that matter. But she had to be able to fill their bellies with something.
She slipped quietly from the room and made her way to the kitchen. After buttoning her heavy woolen coat and wrapping her head and face in a scarf, she reached for the change jar. It had started as a fun thing. They would save their spare change in this jar, and once a month on Friday would splurge on pizza and a movie, or something else fun.
They hadn't done that in months.
Now they used it for emergency food shopping. Whatever money was in this jar would have to last them through the week until the disability check came. She had thought about going back to work, but who would take care of her husband? She just couldn't do it. Neither could she bring herself to apply for food stamps.
So, she would be shopping with The Jar today.
After scraping the snow that accumulated during the night, she slipped behind the wheel and let the heat bring the feeling back into her toes. She glanced at the gas tank and winced. Barely enough gas to get there and back. The kids would have to miss youth group tonight. Again. A sigh of regret escaped from her lips.
There wasn't much traffic this morning. She hoped to be home in less than 40 minutes. She didn't want the kids to miss the bus. Or they would just have to stay home from school because she couldn't drive them.
The parking lot of her favorite discount food store was plowed clean, and she was very thankful. She made her way from the car towards the carts. Suddenly, she felt her left foot slip out from under her. The jar flew into the air and landed with a crash onto the parking lot beside her. She sat stunned for a moment, not sure what had happened.
It must have been black ice. It sure felt cold enough to be freezing. She removed the glove from her right hand and began digging through the slush to retrieve the precious coins, and put them safely in her pocket. Ten minutes later she finally made it into the store.
She had the place memorized, and zipped quickly through the aisles, selecting those things which were filling, and within her budget. Oatmeal and rice were staples, as were potatoes. Milk was just too expensive this week. They could do without, she supposed.
She placed her things on the conveyor belt and began counting the change from her pocket. The cashier's voice startled her and she lost count.
"What do you think you're doing?"
She looked around. Yes, she was being addressed.
"Um, I'm getting ready to pay."
"You can't expect me to take that huge handful of wet change and put it in my register. Don't you have some other way to pay? You could have at least went to the bank and gotten bills. There are other people in line. This is going to take too long."
She couldn't move. Never had she been so mortified. If only the cashier knew all that had happened. The lump in her throat grew larger, and she could feel the eyes of the people behind her staring into her head.
Then the tears came. Hot and embarrassingly obvious down her cheeks. Still she couldn't move. Couldn't speak. Couldn't even apologize for her existence.
"Excuse me. I'll be happy to pay for her groceries." The man behind her pulled out his debit card and covered her order. She didn't know what to say. So she silently put her bags in the cart, whispered a 'Thank you' to him, lowered her head, and started toward the door.
She was putting the last bag in her trunk when the man approached.
"I'm sorry for the way the cashier treated you in there. I want you to know I spoke with the manager, and told him I expected some action to be taken. I also know what it's like to go through hard times, and I felt the Lord impressing me to give you this. Please don't say no. You don't want to rob me of a blessing do you?"
He smiled and held out a one hundred dollar bill.
She was crying freely now, and looked to the sky to offer her thanks to the Lord.
"He knows. He always knows, and He always provides. Thank you so much. You have no idea what this means to me. To my family. God is so good."
With that, the stranger took her cart back for her, and bid her good day. When she got behind the wheel this time, she took a moment to absorb what had just happened. Then, when she had reflected on the goodness of God, she went to the gas station to fill her tank.
Pro 3:27 "Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of thine hand to do it."
Monday, March 03, 2008