Angels in the shadows

Life is a strange thing. Sometimes it happens in ways we can’t explain, but something inside tells us there is someone who could, if we could only get them to talk.  Maybe none of this makes any sense to you, but I think of it often, most especially on days like this….strange days.

It started on Wednesday afternoon as I was coming home from work.  I had stopped at the corner grocery store, one I don’t often visit, but seemed the most convenient choice at the moment. After grabbing a few items, I made my way to one of the lines and put my things down on the cashier’s counter. Directly in front of me stood an older lady unloading her cart of groceries, immediately offering to let me go in front of her.

I thanked her for her kindness but declined the offer, as I was in no hurry and she’d already moved a good portion of her groceries out of her cart.  She looked a bit rough around the edges, worn out in a way that only comes from the inside, cultivated by life being less than kind.  There was a strength of spirit about her I couldn’t help but notice, and it made me smile.

As we stood there and she continued to unload her items, she began giving me brief commentaries on her grocery choices.

“Do you know, this is the best stuff ever?”

She held up a jar of what looked like peanut butter, but she told me it had honey added to it.  I smiled and told her PB was indeed one of the best things in this world. As she picked up a few bags of carrots and a small pineapple she continued on, explaining how she’d begun juicing and, though she hadn’t been able to the past few weeks, felt so much better when she did.

At this point her commentaries ceased and I turned my attention to a nearby magazine, and began to turn the pages looking for something interesting to read. Before too long I realized about 5 minutes had passed and the cashier was still scanning her rather small pile of food.  Suddenly, I couldn’t help but notice the cashier reporting her total amount to her every time he scanned an item. Sometimes she would nod and he’d place it in one of her worn down plastic bags she’d brought, and sometimes she’d shake her head sadly and ask him to put it aside.

It became very obvious to me at this point what was going on, that this dear sweet lady did not have enough money to pay for what she had.  Trying to determine what what to keep and what to leave, she looked tiredly down at her credit card, remarking that social security gave her a mere 67 dollars and this wasn’t going to make it.  She began telling the boy to put back the carrots and the pineapple and a number of other items.

My heart broke at this scene, I could not bear it any longer.  Not today, I thought, not today.

“Put it on my card”  I said, waving my hand at what was left to try my best to convey how small a gesture it was.

She looked over at me in disbelief, her big blue eyes filling with tears. She asked why I would do that.

“Why?  Well you have to get your juicing done, silly”  I grinned at her and pointed to her carrots.

She told me I was an angel, I told her I wasn’t and it was nothing (and honestly, it was nothing.)

“But if you only knew what I’ve been through the past year, if you only knew what you just did and how much it means to me. I lost my job, my husband died, I had a stroke, and now I am losing my home.  This is all the money I have in the world,  and it had to last me all month. How did you know to do that for me?” 

“I didn’t”  I told her, but someone didSomeone is watching over you my dear, and He just reminded you of that”

Tears streaming down her face, her tired smile radiated hope from within as she turned to leave.

I left that store knowing that something beyond this world had happened in that grocery line.  What I did cost me a mere 10 dollars. It was nothing- nothing at all, and it certainly wasn’t because I am a good person or I was looking to do something nice. I was tired and wanted to get home.  Something had drawn me towards her from the moment I had seen her and I have no doubt in my mind I was led there for her, to remind her that Someone far more beautiful than I was looking out for her.

Twenty-four hours later I got a call from my mom telling me she had been diagnosed with cancer.  She was to start radiation and chemotherapy almost immediately, as well as surgery to remove the tumor growing like poison inside her.  This call was entirely out of the blue, as most of them are I suppose, prefaced without warning or comfort.

Or was it?

As my mom cried on the phone, and I with her, the moment in the grocery line came rushing back to me.  He didn’t just do that for her, he did it for me.  He cared enough to give that sweet old lady 10 dollars to get her through the month and remind her she was loved.

He was going to take care of my mama too.

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