I had my groceries. He had crazy hair. I had my one-year-old daughter. He had a mysterious sack containing only God knows what. I had my pepper spray in hand. He had on a dirty camo coat. I must admit, I loaded my groceries and said daughter into the car, giving myself a pep talk and prepping for what could happen in the next few moments. I scanned the scene: an older woman sipping a soda watching; if anything happened, she would surely notify someone. A man pulling his van up into a parking spot close to mine. Quite a few people leaving the store, as this was two days before Thanksgiving.
This man paced only a few feet behind my car, on the grass next to the parking lot, mumbling things to himself. He acted almost as if waiting for someone. Or something. The news report in my head went like this: “Woman in local Kroger parking lot held at gunpoint Tues evening while her one-year-old daughter cried in the back seat. The woman had sense enough to lock the car doors so as the attacker could not reach the child. Police are still looking for this woman who was unable to fight off the dirty man.” I realize this may sound completely absurd to some of you, or maybe it’s new mom thing, but all I could think was how to protect my baby. I watched as the man crossed the street and sat down beside a dumpster behind another grocery store. I sighed and enjoyed a moment of relief, but then a moment of concern. And compassion for this man.
Then, before I knew it, I’m driving over there. (Lord help me, I can hear my father’s voice giving me a stern lecture as I type.) It was one of those moments where I kinda went, “Well, God, you’re gonna protect me, right?” I imagine God winked at me. I pulled up to the man with a $10 dollar bill in hand, knowing without a shadow of a doubt my brave, do-gooder donation would buy his next meal and maybe a warmer coat at some local mission. He got up, not making much eye contact, mumbling in what sounded like a foreign language. He looked at me, with eyes that still make me want to cry when I think about them. They were nothing short of beautiful. Gray blue in color and full of some strange sort of contentment. His face was hairy and dirty, but those eyes were perfect and truly mesmerizing. He looked at me intently, as if he knew exactly why I was there. He came toward me but not too close. I reached out and said, “Sir. Please take this.” Those eyes scanned me and the bill as if I held a steak and he was a stray dog.
This man was not in the least bit tempted to take the money. He shook his head carefully, almost apologetically. I continued to hold out the money, and said, “Are you sure? Please take it. Happy Thanksgiving.” He took a step back and looked behind him and upward. It gives me the chills as I type because I don’t know that I’ve ever seen anyone do such a move. Without a word, it was as if he were saying he was taken care of because this was not his home. I inquired, pleadingly, one more time, “Are you sure you’re ok?” and with that he nodded, with those amazing eyes locked on mine. Not knowing what to say, I uttered, “God bless you” knowing full well, in some crazy, in-a-way-only-God-can, he was blessed beyond belief.
I drove away, emotional to say the least (truth be told I was crying, wondering what other drivers thought) thanking God for all that I had. My daughter (who waved and said “Byyyyyyyyye!” as we drove off…I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if the stranger had winked at her knowingly) my husband, my home, my cat, the food in my fridge, my washer and dryer, a closet full of clothes, a computer, a church home, a church family, family in various states (both geographic and emotional), my faith, my salvation…the list goes on and on. It took an encounter such as this to remind me that we are here for a short time. And God provides everything we need in that time, whether our cup runneth over, or we have just enough manna to get us by for another 24 hours. Thank you God, for this angel who reminded me that you take care of the sparrows, and will assuredly take care of us too.