Finding Jesus at the Thrift Shop
I recently had a very humbling experience that has had me thinking a great deal about my faith and about this world we inhabit. I was at a thrift shop (one of my favorite recreational habits) in a not-so-great part of Kansas City that, as it turns out, only accepts cash. I had only a $20 bill on me and the total of my purchases, with tax, came to about $21. I asked the cashier to just take off one of the tiny $1 trinkets in my basket to get my total back under $20. An older woman behind me in line, who didn't look like she had a lot of extra money of her own, overheard my conversation with the cashier. She spoke up, offering to "loan" me a dollar so that I could purchase the item.
I didn't know what to say. I mean, first of all, I had enough money, just not in my wallet at the time. And second of all, I didn't really need the little item. It was just a fun "extra," not anything near a necessity. Nothing that I would want to deprive another human being of a dollar so that I could have. I thanked her for her kind offer but told her that I really didn't need the item and asked the cashier to leave it off. But the kind stranger insisted, saying that someone had helped her before in the past when she was "short," and wanted to repay the favor. She went on to explain that, by her doing this favor for me, that I would someday do the same for another person. And, thus, the "pay it forward" wold continue.
Humbled, I kindly accepted her offer. After I paid the cashier for my purchase, I reached into the bag of magnets that the kind stranger's dollar helped me purchase. They were vintage wooden magnets that I was going to "redo"-- paint and add inspirational messages to. I asked her to pick one out that she liked, my "gift" to her. In that moment of accepting her kindness and, in turn, giving something back to her, I felt a profound feeling of our shared humanity; a feeling of immense love and solidarity, that we are all children of God, here on this Earth to help each other along.
That woman was a beacon of light to me that day. At first, I didn't feel worthy of accepting her light. I mean, there are so many others in this world who need more than I do, right? Who was I to accept a financial donation from a woman who didn't look like she had much to her name? But maybe I was exactly the person who needed that "handout" that day. Not the physical, tangible money, per se. But the gift of our shared humanity, the gift of receiving human kindness.
In a world where we see picketers at funerals waving signs that say "God hates fags," where we see man kill man because of the color of his skin or the country of his origin, where we see children bullied because they don't have the right clothes, it is hard to believe we have much to hope for. But in this moment, I saw the living, breathing Christ in the form of a "mere" mortal. I felt love, I felt hope. I felt that we might have a chance at salvation after all.
Thank you thrift shop lady. You have touched me more than you know.
Wendy has been a member of Saint Andrew since 2001. When not busy being a mother, wife, and career counselor, she can be found tinkering in her art studio. She can be reached at email@example.com.)