It’s Monday evening at the grocery store. I rush through the store like a cheetah snatching its prey. Glance at my watch. Fifteen minutes until Gymnast is done with practice. Can’t be late. Hurry up. Pick a short line. Place all my items on the conveyor belt.
And that’s when my eyes finally elevate away from my tunnel vision, and I notice something.
Man with the Furrowed Brow at the front of the line with his ATM card failing for the third time. Cashier warns Man if it declines one more time he won’t be able to use his card for 24 hours.
I glance at the Lady in the Red Jacket in front of me. Her blond highlights pulled back into a tousled pony, and we look at each other with this uncanny understanding. We aren’t annoyed, and the tick-tock of my frantic timeframe to pick up Gymnast slows.
Man with the Furrowed Brow speaks in a foreign language to his elderly mom as she bags the carrots, lettuce, milk and eggs. The basics.
The cashier holds the rest of Man’s items as he makes his way to the ATM machine. The store will waive the $1 surcharge. People trying to help.
The Lady in the Red Jacket checks out and heads toward the door.
Time ticks. Gymnast will be done in eight brief minutes.
Each of my items cross the scanner. Beep. Beep. Beep.
I glance at Man’s Mom waiting. She looks fragile and patient as if this isn’t the first time she’s had to wait. She turns and walks toward the exit.
A still, small voice inside my heart nudges: “Go pay for their groceries.”
And then the organ under my skull intrudes:
“If it’s $20, or maybe $40 I will buy them. I just went over the budget, and there’s not much wiggle room this month.”
I resolve and condition my giving. How wrong is that?!
Deep down I know true giving doesn’t look at the price or the cost; it looks at the condition of the heart.
And “It’s never the wrong time to do the right thing” (Martin Luther King Jr.).
I finish bagging my groceries, pay for them, and notice on the screen that Man’s groceries were $90.67. Yikes. That’s too much, I think, and besides I’m already late, and Man and Man’s Mom seem to have left. Excuses.
I gather my items and head to the door.
And then a defibrillator palpitates my dead heart and shocks it back into existence. I notice the Lady in the Red Jacket standing outside with Man and Man’s Mom. She makes her way to the ATM, withdraws her money, and hands a stack of $20 bills to Man’s Mom.
A jealousy overcomes me. The kind that desires an attribute, the intangible, in another person. I want to be her in this moment. Clearly we both had the same idea, but she moved to action.
I load my groceries into my car, and I can’t stop watching the scene between the Lady in the Red Jacket and Man’s Mom. She will arrive home tonight telling a different tale than me.
Giving isn’t cheap. It requires something from the giver, but when it’s from the heart the benefits for the giver far outweigh the cost of the gift.
I can’t reverse time, but I can pray for my eyes to be opened for a next time. As history has proven, there always is a next time.