I was at Wal-Mart the other day, with a friend who was purchasing one of those giant bags of flour (for a school project). The checkout lines were long and she said, “Let’s do the Self-Checkout.” (Fortunately, she is much younger and stronger than I, and was pretty easily handling the really GIANT bag of flour.)
We wrangled the bag around to locate the UPC and plopped it down on the screen. The check-out scanner beeped, and she shoved the flour over to the bagging spot, which, I learned, the hard way, is imperative, because the computer-operated check-out needs to know that the item’s proper weight gets bagged. Of course, the flour wasn’t actually bagged, it just lay there, like a very large dead fish. (Once I was shopping with my sister, a while back, when self-checkout was new, and I got a Coke and asked if it was all right if I opened it and started drinking it. “Sure,” she said. But, when we self-checked, it was not at all okay for me to have drunk some of the Coke, because the weight of the item no longer matched what the computer thought it should have been. Clerks had to come and be involved.)
I had some cash in my pocket, which I retrieved, and immediately dropped on the floor. I fumbled around and got it, handed it over, and she began to feed the bills into the self-check machine.
Then I felt our cart (because even if you’re only getting one bag of flour, when it’s giant-sized, you need a cart) jiggle against my hip. I turned around and found a total stranger holding my purse, which was in the kid-seat-area, and wiggling it.
“I’ve watched you and your friend,” said the guy with my bag. “I saw you drop your money. You’re not paying attention. Anybody could have come along and picked up your purse and walked away. They’d have been half-way across this store before you noticed it.”
“You are absolutely right,” I said. “I was distracted and not paying attention at all.”
“I just wanted you to be more aware,” he said.
“Thank you for reminding me to be more careful,” I said, because he was absolutely right.
We got the receipt and struggled to get the giant bag of flour back into the cart and shoved it out to the parking lot.
“He looked weird,” my young friend said.
“Well, yeah, he did, didn’t he.” And he did. He was missing some teeth, he had a scruffy beard, and scruffy clothes.
“But just because someone looks a little different from us, it doesn’t mean he’s not a nice guy. And he was nice to me. And he was completely right. I wasn’t paying attention. Anybody could have come along and lifted my purse from the cart, and I’d never have noticed. It was a very important thing that he did. Maybe his wife or mom or somebody he knows got their purse stolen in exactly that way. And maybe he said to himself that, if he could keep it from happening to somebody else, he would.”
She didn’t respond, but I like to imagine that she was thinking about it. Sometimes talking and talking and talking about a new idea dilutes it. Allowing some time for thoughtful consideration can help distill that idea and make it stronger and more potent. And I LOVE that purse and would have been really sad to lose it, not to mention the irritation of losing some cash and credit cards and government-issued ID and car keys and maybe I’m going to have to go lie down rest and stop thinking about it! But I might take my purse with me when I go.
Never walk away from someone who deserves help; your hand is God’s hand for that person.
Proverbs 3:27 (The Message)
Oh, God. Let my hand be yours to the people around me.