It wasn’t like she had extra money. After Henry’s death, Alice’s pension had decreased so significantly she had a hard time making it stretch to the end of each month. At first she’d stayed home allowing herself only two “spending” days a month, but then the loneliness overwhelmed her and neither her apartment nor cats could sooth the ache.
So Alice did her best to make a list of everything she might need for the month and divided it by the number of days. She would say her good-byes to Fred and Wilma each morning, then wander down the hill to one of the shops in her town. Her plan guaranteed contact with people every day.
Alice’s favorite store was the pharmacy. Everyone took time to say “Hello” and nobody seemed to mind the squeaky wheels of her handcart.
Today was the day to purchase fabric softener. Standing at the cash counter of the drugstore, Alice tried to make sense of the clerk’s nametag.
Ever since the accident Alice had a hard time pronouncing words. Nothing ever came out right. In her mind her thoughts were fluid and precise but once spoken, they sounded different, disjointed.
It had happened forty years ago. Two out-of-control cars collided leaving Alice, at nineteen, with a slight brain injury.
“How much this cost?” She put the box of Bounce on the counter.
“$3.49. Is that everything?”
Alice looked into the young girl’s eyes, captured by the gentle voice.
“Yeh.” As it often happened, she struggled to count the coins. Alice looked down at her hand, suddenly embarrassed.
“Can I help you?”
Nodding, Alice allowed Rajha to count the money.
“Thanks, R-a-j-ha.” And pulling her cart, Alice left the store and headed back up the hill.
On her knees before the Lord, Rajha surrendered her day.
I don’t want my job to be just about retail sales and customer counts, God. Show me how to extend your love to the people I serve.
Immediately, a picture of Alice in her dirty yellow jacket and red hat came to mind. Her heart squeezed with compassion as she remembered Alice’s struggles from the day before.
What will you do with this child of mine? the Lord seemed to ask her.
Rajha felt a familiar quickening in her spirit and committed herself to obedience, however God led.
Having finished washing her few breakfast dishes, Alice reached for her purse and cart. She gave each cat a special scratch and headed out the door. Q-tips and Ivory soap were the order for today. No matter the rain that pelted down, her shopping and the desire for companionship were greater than a need to stay dry.
Rajha looked up as the door opened.
Well look who you just brought in. Lead the way, Lord.
“Good morning Alice. You must be soaked through with all that rain out there.”
There was something about the clerk’s smile that made Alice feel warm all over.
She stared at the young girl’s nametag and tried, again, to pronounce it.
With a strange and solid confidence Rajha, noticing Alice’s struggle stepped in.
“My name’s Rajha. Since I started here a few weeks ago I’ve noticed you shopping everyday and I was wondering if I could buy you lunch sometime.”
Alice shuffled from one foot to the other, “How ‘bout today?”
She couldn’t believe what she heard, an invitation for lunch? Even though this sweet girl was young enough to be her grandchild, her heart jumped at the chance to share a meal with somebody other than her cats.
Ok Lord, I’m feeling a little nervous about lunch. I’m desperate for your lead.
After placing the order Rajha felt a nudge from the Lord. Ask about her cats, listen to her heart my child.
And so she did. A simple question led to a full hour of conversation. In broken disjointed sentences, Rajha heard about Alice’s husband Henry, the cancer that killed him, the accident that left her disabled, and, of course, the cats. More importantly she heard Alice’s heart, crying to be filled with the love and acceptance that could only come from its Creator.
As the hour drew to a close, boldness sturdied Rajha once again. “Alice, I was wondering if you’d like to come to church with me…if you don’t need to do any shopping, that is”.
Alice’s smile spread from one side of the floppy red hat to the other.
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