A dear friend shared a frustration with me today. She can’t understand why no one has time to help her. She sees her friends and knows that she would be willing to help any one of them if they asked, but somehow they are all unavailable to help her. “Why?” she wonders, “it’s just so frustrating.”
Busy. We are all so very busy. We are over extended with more tasks and responsibilities than we could ever manage even if we had help or a little more time. We are tapped out. Our giving well has long ago dried up and we are in a time famine.
Our excesses do not just apply to our exceeded credit limits and over indulging appetites they stretch deeper and more devastatingly into the most precious of our gifts, our time. And today my “busy” almost cost me a moment, a God ordained moment.
I HAD to make the dreaded Walmart run. Oh Walmart how I love you and despise you all at once. You with your super-center greatness and bargain basement prices—the frugal penny pincher in me finds you too irresistible despite the fact that you are also the place where decorum, sanity and humanlike behavior are checked at the door. Walmart seems to beacon souls from the bowls of society to loiter inside its doors creating their own viral phenomenon. But my husband, the usual victim for quick shopping runs is sick and we were in dire need of chicken soup and eye cream. And so, I begrudgingly gather my bag and slink to the door knowing that I have a long list of to-dos tonight and none of which included the one stop shopping mecca.
After making it to the express lane with all the items I came for, along with two must have DVDs I fished out of the bin, I carefully place my items on the counter and hand the unenthused checker my shopping bag. She obliges and begins scanning my items and dropping them in my bag. I then begin to explain to her my eye cream dilemma (she is captivated, truly). This battered box is the only one on the shelf and I really need it, because I have been scraping the last drops from my current bottle. She nods on cue. I get to the point, “will you sell me this damaged one for a discount?” “I’ll have to ask my manager.” “Okay, I’ll wait.” (only slightly annoyed she walks off to find her manager). My patience is clearly not admired by the surly couple waiting in line behind me.
She returns with the happy news (at least it was for me). “I can give you 10% off.” “Perfect.” “But I don’t have a calculator…” (no worries I am a former math wiz) “that will be a $1.99!” “Great.” (said with less excitement than one would expect with that word). We exchange the southern good-bye pleasantries and I wheel my cart away. Being the frugal shopper I am I double check my receipt to make sure she did give me my $1.99 discount to discover that she had actually charged me $1.99 for this $20 eye cream. Dilemma. Do I return to the dreaded store and wait to explain my situation to an unenthused manager while wrangling the people of Walmart or do I say score for incompetence and $1.99 eye cream? Before the thought even completes in my mind the Spirit within me prompts me to right this wrong. I was stealing. Knowingly stealing and feeling justified because I did not have the time to deal with it. But Dave was languishing at home and thanks to those bargain bins I had already lingered far too long.
I decide I need to take Dave his soup. And I’m also thinking I’ll tell him what happened and if he thinks it’s not worth bothering over I’ll forget about it. (a.k.a. justify my sin). And still the Spirit whispers Brandi you will need to come make this right after dinner.
Dave listens to my story as he prepares his soup and says, “Wow a 90% discount, yeah you need to take that back so they can adjust it.” After dinner I’m trying to will myself to make the trek back and finally manage to drag myself to the car, again. I wish I could say that I walked in and no one was at the Customer Service desk, after all it was 9 pm, but then again, it is Walmart. And so, I wait in a line that moves like a slug across the hot concrete. Painful. As I’m waiting I can’t help but overhear this old man’s problem. “I’m sorry, I don’t mean to be a bother, but I TOLD the guy I needed to put $2 on my debit card and pay $15 in cash.” “Yes sir, I think I understand. I just don’t know how to fix it.” And so we all wait as she waits for the other worker to help her figure it out. His voice is kind, but full of anxiety as he explains that he really needs her to put the money back because he doesn’t have but $3 or $4 in his checking account.
And there it is—perspective. This whole evening I have been focused on my to-dos along with my list of don’t-want-to-dos including trying to “give back $17” that was wrongfully given to me. I am annoyed that I have to wait in line to honestly pay for my $20 eye cream and this dear man is worried about how he is going to pay for his $17 groceries. The Spirit begins to whisper, it isn’t about your $20 eye cream, it’s about you helping this man, about you giving $20. Make time. Take time—for others.
He drives his motorized scooter away so they can void his transaction and ring it up the right way. As the Lord and I are having our discussion the clerk says it’s my turn. I begin explaining the over sight and she is rather mystified, “Wow, not many people would come back to do that.” I don’t have time to tell her how truly I wanted to be included with those people and that I’m not here to help Walmart, but I’m trying to figure out where the dear man has gone. I ask if I can use my debit card so I can get cash back, “sure.” But then the transaction completes and doesn’t allow me to get cash. “Well, never mind,” I say. The Spirit is not letting go, but I don’t know where he went or how I’m going to help. I never have cash.
I hear a motor and look up to see him wheeling out the store. “I can do this! I can catch him.” This time, surprisingly, there is not a soul at the express lane. I grab a drink from the cooler. The cashier hands me my cash and I’m off trying to catch a motorized cart in a dark parking lot where the cars don’t stop. I see him. He is directly in front of me and has just gotten in his car. “I can still make it. Please don’t let him think I’m a deranged loony trying to hurt him…”
He is about to pull away as I tap on his window. “Umm, sorry sir, but I heard your story and that you used the last of your money and well I have extra…so here.” I hand him the cash. His face softens and he starts to tremble as he takes it trying to say something, but failing. “Ma’am I don’t know what to say…you are going to make me cry.” “Oh no, don’t do that, God bless you sir.” I pat him on the shoulder as he says, “I’m an ordained minister and I just didn’t…” his words trail off and I pat his arm again and say, “Well the Lord is taking care of you right now. Take care, bye!” And just like that I dart off, knowing that wasn’t my moment to shine, but the Lord’s. I gave my time and allowed myself to be available and the Lord used my time to meet the need of one of His servants. What joy.
I’m not busy. Never too busy for people, especially the Lord’s servants.
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