She was in front of us in the cashier line at the grocery store. Pushing a baby carriage with her right hand in which slept a beautiful newborn, she held some slips of paper in her left hand.
Quickly taking in everything, I surmised that the papers she held were WIC. Immediately irritated, I thought and expressed sotto voce to my friend, “Oh, man, it always takes forever for the processing of these things.”
He, having just a little more grace than I in that moment, said nothing to me but expressed to the young woman how beautiful the baby was. I, immediately convicted by his quiet rebuke and my sour attitude, asked the baby’s age. “Two months,” was her reply.
We stood and silently watched the cashier, who appeared to be management solidly out of his element, bumble his way through the processing of the WIC coupons as the young woman quietly watched him and answered the questions he asked. She only had a few things, a couple of bags of frozen fruit, I think, but there was a third item that the management cashier told her she could not purchase, a bag of fresh cherries. I asked my friend to let him know I would pay the difference.
True to my original thought, the WIC transaction for two items took forever (my hyperbole, of course), but as we waited, I watched the young lady. Her expression never changed as she stood at the counter. She never raised her voice in frustration as she answered the questions. I now realize this was probably her shield against any potential judgement by people in line behind her, too wrapped up in their own world to care about any distress on her part (Donna), something she had probably experienced too many times before.
As we moved up with my full conveyor belt of food, including a bag of fresh cherries, the Holy Spirit whispered to me, “Do more.”
I asked the young lady to wait as I presented to the management/cashier a gift card and told him the amount I wanted on it.
I pulled out my debit card to pay when he announced, “You have to pay for these with cash.”
I gave a quick retort, which I can’t remember now, but I opened my wallet praying I had enough cash since in these days of easy access by technology I very seldom have any money on me. I had just enough to cover the gift card when I was then told I had to pay an activation fee as well.
“Do I need cash for that, too.”
I did not, “Thank you, Lord.”
I handed the gift card to the young lady and true to the demeanor she had displayed at the counter, she quietly thanked me. I asked her name. She told me, and as she walked away, I silently prayed for her. I pray for her now.
I turned back to the task at hand, the processing of my groceries, and as the management/cashier swiped items across the scanner, he said, “You guys are awesome.”
I do not know if he will tell this story to anyone else. I do not know if the young woman will tell anyone else this story. What I do know is in that moment of going from irritation to compassion, the Lord reminded me of those days when I was that young woman with a baby wondering how those ends would meet.
My response to the man’s comment was “There but for the grace of God go I,” but it is really much more than that cliched response. God’s grace is extended to all. The fact that I am now a woman of faith is not defined by my economic status. Salvation does not come with dollar signs attached. That moment in the grocery store was really about how God could be glorified in that moment, how I would wrap the tenets of my faith in flesh, and no I did not think these high and lofty thoughts in that moment. I just felt her heartbeat and in it I heard my own.
I am, by no means, flush today. I still pinch a few pennies and my retirement years have the potential for some financial question marks, but I am not afraid. God is still provider and I am learning more and more every day how to give out of my need.
I do not write this to impress. I share this story to remind myself and any others that our pasts should compel us to act out our faith as an humble thank-you for the “where” from which He has brought us.
After all, we really are where we are today only by the grace of God.
Especially in times like these.