Monday, January 28, 2013

unexpected prayer at Trader Joe's

It was later on a Sunday night -- after the afternoon rush and right before closing -- and a handful of us were out gathering groceries at the local Trader Joe's.  There was a weariness about the room -- from the employees, having just dealt with the busiest day of the week; and from the shoppers, realizing the week was over, tomorrow would be Monday, and we still had to go home and unpack the food.

Image by IlsesPunkFan on flickr


Certainly, I was weary and anxious to get out of there.  But as I scanned the available checkout lanes, I realized I would probably have to hunker in for a few extra minutes, seeing as nearly everyone was shopping for two weeks' worth of groceries (myself included).

I got in a lane behind a woman and her two daughters.  The woman looked completely stressed.  Her oldest daughter was begging for strawberries.  "But they're so good," she argued her case.  Her poor, frazzled mother said in hushed tones, "We can't do it."  "But mooooommmmmm!"  "No, we can't.  We can't afford it."  This went on for a little bit, while the cashier entertained the younger girl with bagging tips (he was a pro!).

Then the woman went to pay for her groceries, sheepishly offering up her EBT card.  "I don't know how to do this," she half-apologized to the cashier, who was a complete gentleman about the whole thing and walked her pleasantly (and discreetly) through the process.

As I stared into my purse, or at my phone, or around the store at the Trader Joe's artwork adorning the walls, I inwardly was saying to the woman, "I get it.  I do.  We're nearly there as well, and one more pregnancy at our current income, we'll be in your shoes.  It's rough out there.  It's hard to make a living, especially in this area.  I get it." 

I know a number of people who are on, or have been on, governmental help such as food stamps and WIC.  We've looked into it ourselves.  It's not a shameful thing, but a reality that many have to face.  It's a tough economy.  It's hard to raise a family and provide for them.  But I guess even if you know it, it's still difficult to swallow some pride and use the EBT card.

So instead of inwardly saying stuff to this woman that she would not hear, I just started praying for her: "Lord, please give them abundance.  Give them some sort of break -- extra money this month, extra money for a while.  Shower them with blessings, and let them know it comes from You."

And I wished so dearly that we had a disposable income that I could somehow discreetly pay for her groceries, or somehow slip some cash into her purse without her noticing, or something.  I've heard of people doing such things, especially around holidays, and I so wished I could do something tangible.

But instead, all I had was the prayer.  And so I offered it.

  • When have you been led to prayer in unexpected places?

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