She looked little different than dozens of other seniors in this retirement town. With soft gray curls peeking from her hand knitted cap and her tweed coat pulled tightly around her, she unloaded her sparsely filled grocery cart. Slacks and tennis shoes completed the casual look so common here. Yet something captured his attention.
That coat hardly looks warm enough for this howling wind, he surmised absently as he waited his turn. She’s no doubt on a fixed income, maybe a widow.
She carried on a lively chat with the cashier and reached for her multi-compartmented organizer handbag.
This is an outing for her – something to get out of that empty apartment. He began to unload his cart as her total was rung. He was mentally calculating how many boxes he would need for his groceries when a change in their voices arrested his attention again.
She stood with a worn wallet open in front of her. A few bills were spread out on the counter as she tallied the coins in her hand. Her nervous laugh now seemed sharp in contrast to the pleasantries of a moment ago.
“Well, I sure messed up this time. I’m usually right on top of things.” He noticed the rising pink in her cheeks. “Let’s put the cookies back. And… the apples. And the cheese – I’ll be fine ‘til next time without that.” She kept pushing items back until the total was in line.
As she put her last coins on the counter and moved to the end to find a box for her purchases, she bit her lip and pulled her coat even tighter around her.
He knew how it felt to be on a fixed income; the stress and frustration, sometimes even hopelessness. It’s not right. She’s somebody’s mother. She should be able to have her cookies – AND her cheese.
Then he heard a Voice -- one he knew well -- and he knew what to do. “Go ahead and ring them on my tab,” he murmured to the cashier. “Just don’t let her know where it came from.”
“Are you sure?” The cashier appeared startled.
The shopper found a box and returned with tears in her eyes just as the cashier pushed the last purchases down the counter toward her.
“But…but I didn’t pay…”
“Don’t worry about it. It’s all taken care of.” The cashier’s voice was a gentle caress now; the voice you would use to soothe a frightened child.
“Why thank you, dear.” The tears threatened to overflow, but her soft voice carried gratitude and more. Renewed strength, he thought. Maybe even hope?
She gathered her box and went out to brave the cold again. Could it be she walked a little straighter?
The cashier looked up at him with a smile and wiped a tear of her own away before she continued to scan his order.
He had not felt led to say anything, yet God had preached the sermon He knew His children needed. A sermon of love and hope. A sermon without words.
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