It’s time for the 31 Days series. Every year in October The Nester hosts a link-up for writers and bloggers from all corners. The topics are as varied as the writers. This year I will write for 31 days about Good Deeds. The story that prompted this topic is one that I will post on day 2. Most days we are overcome by our chores, tasks, and to-dos. These stories inspire me to look beyond myself at the world around us. We could all use a hand sometimes. Every good deed touches a heart in ways we may never see.
~Day 1 ~
I could almost hear a voice. It was really just a thought that pierced my daydream. It was the kind of thought that really doesn’t make any sense, so you are pretty sure it didn’t come from you. The thought rang again,
Take the $20 from the bathroom counter and put it in your pocket.
I puzzled over the request and shrugged. My thoughts replied,
Ok, I’ll do it. If I can remember.
I dressed and got ready for the very important outing to Costco. Supplies were running low. Detergents, diapers, breakfast sausages that my 11-year-old can prepare all by himself. The sausages are crucial because they buy me just a little bit more sleep. I love sleep. I grabbed the keys, kissed my warrior, and snuck out the back door. Alerting the six pack to my departure would only bring tears and clamoring to come along. Any mama knows that special “me time” at the store cannot be interrupted by tag-a-longs. I stealthily climbed into the truck and sped off (at a screeching 15 mph).
The journey through the store could bring many valuable truths to light. Pushing that oversized cart through the crowded aisles on a Saturday opened my eyes to one thing. I wasn’t really there. I was certainly there in body, squeezing between carts and past temper tantrums, but my mind was somewhere else.
Is this how we cruise through life? Half in the space where our feet are planted and half somewhere else? My mind drifted to what the kitchen would look like at dinnertime, to what the kids might remember they wanted to add to the list before I left, to what we might do on the weekend. My mind drifted to friends back home, to the list of to-do’s that were undone, to just about anything and everything except for the cart… and the people in front of me. It seems the more people are around, the less we look at them. City living can bring us to close our minds, our doors, and our hearts just a bit more than country living. The more faces we are surrounded by, the less we want to be bothered. Maybe it’s all just too overwhelming and we find a safer, quieter place behind the shut door.
Finding myself in the back row of the swarmed parking lot, I remembered,
The $20! Sure enough, I forgot.
I whispered under my breath to the One I knew was listening. He is surely accustomed to my forgetful nature. I like to blame it on the kids.
Ok, I’ve got something.
I dug into my purse and retrieved the only $4 I could find. I shoved them into my pocket.
I’m not sure where You are going with this, and I’m sorry I forgot.
I heard You and then got distracted. I hope this will do.
I checked out my small fortune of groceries and struck up a conversation with the cashier. If I were the cashier I might like to talk to the sea of faces passing me by with crates of supplies.
She was a nice lady and told me that she had lived here for over 30 years. She really wanted to go somewhere else, where the trees would tower and the water would glisten. She was a little nervous about the change of climate. The humidity anywhere else might be just too much, but she really wanted to go. Sometime.
Thirty years is a mighty long time to wish you could go somewhere else. I wonder if our hesitation to try something new always stems from our resistance to the uncomfortable? I wonder what else our comfort might be keeping from us?
The cart swerved and wobbled its way to the truck as I scrambled for the keys. I pried open the tailgate and began to unload the goods. It was only about one minute. One minute passed before I looked up and saw her.
She appeared old. I doubt that she was as old as she looked. Her face reminded me of a face I had seen years before. She reminded me of a meth addict I had treated in a hospital here over a decade ago. The woman back then had a stroke. Just one of the many horrors addictions can bring. It can age you, too. The kind of aging that rips and robs any glow from the skin and light from the eyes.
I looked at the woman in front of me and really saw her. My mind zoomed to the sight before me. She was dressed in flannel and jeans. The clothing was no match for the 98-degree temperature, even though the feel of dry heat does not match its number. Her hair was a gray mat of strands running halfway down her back. The blue-gray eyes appeared dusty and sunken in her loose skin. She mustered any amount of dignity she could gather and spoke. The one tooth remaining in the front of her mouth pointed like any accusing finger at all the wrongs and neglect that left it alone to hold a crooked, forced smile.
I wonder if you could help me. I need money for a bus.
I knew there were no buses cruising this side of town, and there were certainly no buses in the parking lot of city suburbia waiting to pick up disheveled and desperate souls. I had been expecting her.
I replied as I dug in my pocket,
I do have something.
She seemed almost stunned at my response. It didn’t appear she got too many responses to this same question I am sure she had asked countless times.
She whispered as her eyes met mine.
I handed her the four crumpled dollars.
I’m sorry it’s not more. I was expecting you today.
Her smile curled slightly as her eyes flickered. Maybe she was not accustomed to conversation, or maybe the thought of someone expecting her presence caught her off guard.
I kind of knew I would meet you today. Good luck to you.
She nodded and disappeared into the sea of cars.
Why in the world did I say ‘good luck’?
My hand went to my forehead to thump some sense into it. It was pretty obvious that ‘good luck’ had not gotten this lost soul very far. What I really wanted to say was,
God bless you. Do you have anywhere to go?
I didn’t say any of those things. Just, “good luck.”
I climbed into the comfort of my big red truck and stared out the window. How many handfuls of dollar bills would it take to get this desperate woman to the place she was longing to go? Where in the world could a bus take her to find the answers? She didn’t need a bus ticket. She didn’t need ‘good luck.’ The lost soul with the sunken eyes and the wry smile needed something much more. She needed a hand.
I was glad she had interrupted me. I was frustrated I had ignored the Voice that prompted me to pocket the $20 on my bathroom counter. I remembered the voice of my friend’s dad,
Nine times out of ten, the person asking for money is probably going to use it for no good.
Nine times out of ten it won’t take them very far.
It’s that one time… that one time, that will make all the difference in someone’s life.
The difference one time can make. It matters. It may matter to one life out of ten, but that is one whole life.
Just like mine. Just like yours.
I would love to hear your stories. Do you have a good deed to share? A story about you or someone you know?
If you would like to share your story, you can email me at sunrisewithasixpack (at) gmail (dot) com. I’d love to post your words (and you can remain anonymous) here for others to read and be encouraged. Bad news gets all the headlines ~ let’s spur each other on in love and good deeds…