I was visiting my daughter a few years ago in Idaho Falls, Idaho when we decided to go to the store for extra groceries. When I stay with her, it’s kind of a tradition to buy treats and extra things they wouldn’t ordinarily be able to afford. We did our shopping, buying extra cereal, fruit, ice cream, our favorite chips and dips, chocolate milk, a couple of gallons of milk, even a dozen donuts from the bakery. We planned on playing some family games, and it’s always a lot more fun if there’s game food to munch on.
The cashier checked our groceries and gave me a total for the amount. As I opened my purse and grabbed my wallet, a voice plainly told me to get extra cash. I paused. I knew that I didn’t need any extra cash. I had a couple of twenty’s stuffed in my wallet, and there weren’t many places that I would need cash that afternoon; it would soon be dark. I opened my wallet, and again, a voice told me to get PLENTY of extra cash this time, that I would definitely need it. The whopping sum of one hundred dollars popped into my head.
“But I don’t need a hundred dollars right now,” I quickly told the voice.
I glanced up at the cashier. He was watching me closely, giving me that impatient look they can give sometimes if you don’t pay as fast as expected. “Can I get extra cash?” I suddenly asked, wondering why had I just done that?
The cashier nodded. “How much?” he asked.
My daughter, who was standing next to me, gave me a surprised look. “What for? We don’t need anything else," she said and tugged on my arm.
She was right. I didn’t need any money. But someone inside my head was telling me that I was going to need a hundred dollars in the very near future, and I’ve learned to trust that voice over the years. In a million years I couldn’t have guessed what I’d be doing with it. I patted her hand. “I really need a hundred dollars. Can you give me that much?” I told the cashier. After what my daughter had just said out loud, I tried to throw some determination in the look I gave back to him.
“Mom?” The curiosity in my daughter’s voice was evident.
The cashier hesitated for a moment, as if he found my question entertaining, then said, “I think I can manage.”
I turned to my daughter. “I’ll explain later.” I didn’t really know what I was going to tell her though. What I’d just done surprised even me. When and if I do get money it’s usually from a bank or ATM, but today would be different. As I keyed in the extra amount of money, I couldn’t help feeling confused. As soon as the amount was approved, the man opened his cash drawer and slid two fifty dollar bills out from underneath the money tray. He placed the money in my hand, which I then slid inside my wallet. "Thanks," I told him.
The cart was filled and ready to go, so I grabbed the handlebar and pushed it from the store. My daughter followed me. We were talking about something, I don’t even remember, when I first saw her sitting on a curb outside the grocery store—a Spanish woman, probably in her late twenties. I didn’t notice she had two small children standing near her until I was standing next to her. Her beautiful brown eyes were filled with such sadness, I completely forgot about the groceries and everything else happening around me. The desperation she appeared to be feeling at that moment penetrated every fiber of being. When my skin began tingling and my heart beating faster, I knew immediately that she was the woman who needed the money I’d just gotten from the cashier inside the store.
I knelt down and reached for her hand; it was shaking. Her eyes were red and swollen, like she’d been crying. She looked scared and worried. I told her my name and squeezed her hand for reassurance. “What can I do to help you?” I asked.
At first, she just sat there staring at me, and I wondered if she could even speak English. “Is there something I can do for you?” I asked again. “Your children are so sweet—a boy and a girl. You’re lucky to have both. I have six children—three boys, three girls. They wear me out!”
She smiled at that and nodded her head. “The police are coming to help me,” she finally told me in a heavy Spanish accent. Relieved that she did indeed speak English, we continued to talk for a few more moments. She told me that she was running away from a husband that was drinking and abusive. She had called the police and was waiting for an officer to meet her at the store.
She also told me he that she had family but they couldn’t come get her, yet. They would be able to help her soon, though; she reassured me, perhaps by tomorrow or the next day. A cop car drove by about then and parked a couple of rows down near the front of the store. I knew in moments he would be there.
It became plain to me that she needed another option. A hundred dollars wouldn’t get her far, but it might buy a few nights in a cheap motel or feed three mouths for a couple of days. I opened my purse and reached inside of my wallet. I placed the two fifty dollar bills in her hand, closing her fingers over them. “Take this,” I told her. “It will help until family comes.” She looked so shocked for a moment, and then she quickly tucked the money down the front of the shirt she was wearing.
“Thank you,” she told me three times in Spanish.
Tears filled my eyes. “It’s okay,” I told her. “It’s for you and your children.”
Cheek to cheek, I threw my arms around her and hugged her. Her body was shaking; she was crying. My heart ached for the pain and heartache I knew she’d endured. I worried about an uncertain future, yet hadn’t heaven already intervened? A sweet Spanish woman I’d never seen until that very day hugged me back like we were full-blooded sisters. It felt so good to help her. My daughter grabbed my hand, and we walked away to allow her to talk privately with the policeman now approaching her.
We have been back to the store several times since then. The Spanish lady with the sad eyes has not returned. I sincerely pray that she has family helping her through the difficult circumstances she described to me that day. I have never missed the hundred dollars. I know the beautiful sweet woman I met and cared for put it to good use.
And for me…that’s more than enough.