Patti glanced around sheepishly as she stealthily slid the ground beef into her over-sized purse. Patti despised stealing. She had been raised better, but there were three hungry children at home depending on her.
“I’m hungry myself” she thought bitterly about her circumstances. Patti’s husband and the father of her children had walked out on them exactly one year ago.
“Happy Anniversary, jerk!" Tears welled in her blue eyes, making them sparkle. Patti swallowed hard and, without looking to see if anyone was nearby, hurriedly grabbed another pack of ground beef and slipped it into her purse. Patti realized her mistake as she looked up to see a stock boy re-arranging packages of meat; however, he appeared intent on his job.
Patti turned abruptly and scurried down the nearest isle like a frightened mouse.The exit sign above the grocery store’s pneumatic door seemed as if it was a mile away.
“Excuse me, miss”, a middle-aged police officer said sternly, “I need to look in your purse”. Patti had no choice but to stop because the cop stood between her and the exit.
“Why do you need to look in my purse?” Patti stepped sideways, edging the purse away from the officer.
“Miss, hand me the purse and don’t make a scene. A stock boy saw you put food in your purse”.
Patti burst into tears as she handed her purse to the officer.
“Please officer. I've never stolen anything in my life. We’re hungry. I haven’t eaten for a week and my children haven’t had anything for two days! Please let me go! Oh please!” Patti felt faint. Suddenly, three children burst into the store.
Alyssa, Patti’s oldest daughter was holding two year old Jacob, tears rolling down his cheeks. Cheri, the five year old, hid behind Alyssa, one eye as blue as the summer sky, shyly peeking at the officer.
“Mama, what’s going on?” Alyssa asked Patti as she shifted Jacob to the other side of her hip.
“It’s okay baby. Don’t cry.” Patti reached for Jacob and he fell into her arms expectantly.
Jacob ran a dirty little hand across his nose, smearing goo.
“Mama, I hungwy” he drawled. He plopped a dirty, snotty thumb in his mouth and began sucking vigorously, making slobbery noises.
Patti couldn't hold the tears back. It was like a damn bursting open. This entire year had been a nightmare. Jeff had not just left them but he had left unpaid bills and Patti couldn't get a job because she had no experience. Patti had never worked because Jeff had insisted that she not work. He was the MAN of the house and he was going to ‘make the living’. The memory of the night Patti had asked Jeff if she could get a job played in her mind as if it had just happened. There was three weeks left before Christmas and she wanted to buy the kids something, anything.
“A man’s got to do what a man’s got to do” she could hear him clearly in her mind.
Without warning, Jeff instantly turned into madman, screaming at her, accusing her of wanting to ‘run around’. She could almost feel him tearing at her ears as he banged her head repeatedly against the wall until mercifully, she passed out.
“Oh God!” she prayed silently in her head, “If there is a God, I am at my wits end. I don’t know what to do. My babies! Oh God, please help me”.
“My babies” The words escaped her parched lips.
Sergeant Randy felt a tug on his heart. (Matthew 5:7, KJV) came to his mind as the Holy Spirit spoke and urged him to buy groceries for this woman and her children.
“Ma'am, I’m not going to arrest you.”
Patti’s was weak from hunger and from the burden she had carried for so long. So weak she thought this was a hallucination.
“I’m not going to arrest you. I’m going to buy you and your children groceries and then I’m going to take you home.” Randy spoke in an authoritative voice.
“I can’t believe this! You’re not going to arrest me? You are so merciful! How can I ever thank you?” Patti attempted to stand taller, facing Randy.
“You can thank me by listening to a story of the greatest mercy ever shown to anyone. Is it a deal?” Randy said, flashing a toothy smile.
Patti held out a trembling hand. “Deal.”
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