“Excuse me, ma’am? I wonder if you could help me,” she said softly.
On my way to the checkout line with a few grocery items, I stopped and turned to the young woman, expecting a request for help in locating an elusive item needed for a new dish she was making for dinner.
“I need formula for my baby,” she said.
A toddler, about 12 months old, sat in her cart. My heart sank. Not today.
“I’m sorry, but I can’t do that,” I told her.
I pushed my cart along. To cover my guilt, I justified my action: I was busy. Besides, I’d read time and again that handouts weren’t the best way to help people in need. I hear about scams all the time. I was jaded, thinking of the time I’d given a woman at a gas station a twenty-dollar bill for gas to get home and then watched her leave the station on foot.
But I couldn’t be scammed if I wasn’t handing over cash for who knows what. Before I knew it, my cart turned around and headed back to the woman. I had time to add the needed baby formula to my cart for checkout.
I wish I had a nice little ending that tied a bow around this story about how we each were blessed by our connection. But I do not.
A floor manager was talking with the woman. I watched the exchange, planning to buy the formula when they were finished if he didn’t give it to her. I hadn’t noticed the woman’s cart before. In it, she had placed a case of formula, Baby Wipes, bottles, and a few other things from the baby aisle. Both mom and baby wore clean clothes and looked healthy. Mom had a fresh coat of polish on her nails.
I couldn’t hear the conversation, but the employee was no doubt telling her she must leave the store. She pleaded a bit; he listened and gently, but firmly, refused her until she lifted the child from the cart and headed out the door.
As I placed my groceries on the conveyor belt, I still had the urge to help. Maybe I’d find the mother and child in the parking lot when I finished my purchase. But she was not to be found.
Disappointed with myself and burdened by the incident, I prayed about it on the drive home. The realization that there were better avenues to provide for a baby than in the manner I witnessed entered my mind. In my area, food banks, churches, the the Salvation Army are eager to help. The supplemental nutrition program WIC (Women, Infant, and Children) is available for all who qualify.
So what if, instead of scurrying past the woman in fear of a scam, I’d stopped to talk with her? Got her story and assessed her situation. No matter the motivations behind her actions, she was in need of something. I could’ve put her in touch with an agency that might provide long term help. I could certainly have shared a little of Christ’s love with her.
That’s what I’ll do next time something like this happens, I resolved. Back home, I added resources to my phone in a folder labeled “Helping Hands” so I’d be prepared for similar interactions in the future.
Father, Thank You for putting this woman in my path. Thank you for forgiving my lack of action and showing me ways I can minister to others by being prepared and willing to share a little of my time. A little of You. Amen.So what if, instead of scurrying past the woman in fear of a scam, I’d stopped to talk with her? Got her story and assessed her situation. No matter the motivations behind her actions, she was in need of something. I could certainly… Click To Tweet
I’m curious about your thoughts on this. Has something similar happened to you?