I stopped at Walgreen's just to drop off some Redbox rentals and pick up some cat food. That was all I intended, really. But it's not all that happened.
On my way to return the movies, I noticed a man, trying desperately to stay dry and warm in the downpour, standing next to the machine. On reflex, I pulled my purse closer to me because I didn't know him. I wrinkled my nose at his unwashed stench. I cast my eyes downward to avoid making eye contact. I did my very best to ignore the situation.
And then he spoke.
"Excuse me, miss. How are you?"
I nodded and mumbled that I was doing fine. All the while, I wondered why the machine couldn't move any faster.
"And how has the day treated you?"
"How had the day treated me?' I thought. I woke up this morning in my extra-warm bed. I took a shower, put on clean clothes, and had a choice in my breakfast. I went to my job -- a job that I love and that provides me with more than I need. My students had come back to school... happy, ready, and able. I got no fewer than 20 hugs and even more "I missed you's". I was surrounded by friends and colleagues who love and appreciate me. And, on my drive home, my only complaint was the slow-moving traffic that might delay the start of my basketball game on t.v. So how had the day treated me?
"Fairly well. I'd say it's been the best day in a long while," I replied, with a smile.
"That's good. Real good," he grinned back. "You don't think you might pass on some of that good luck to me, do you? You don't have any spare change?"
In my mind, little Roman candles of cynicism burst forth. Beggar. Bum. Vagrant. Drunk. Stranger.
But when was the last time a bum asked me about my day? Better yet, when was the last time anyone who wasn't a close friend asked me (and really wanted more than a "Fine. And you?" in response)?
In my pocket was a dollar bill. The fact that I had any sort of cash is a small miracle, so I thought that maybe it'd bring him a little luck. I chirped at him to stay dry and try to stay warm, and I went in to finish my errand. As I was checking out, the machine asked me if I wanted cash back. Thinking of the man huddled under the flickering Walgreen's sign, I clicked the $10 button and waited for my change. I walked out, folded it up, and handed it to this stranger.
When he took the money from my hand, he also took my hand. I stiffened, alarm bells going off in my head, panic rising. And then I saw him bow his head to pray. To pray for me. When he looked up, there was genuine kindness and thanks in his eyes.
With the money clutched in his hand, he had yet to even look and see that it was a $10 bill. I smiled a bit as I walked to my car. During those few moments, a total stranger in a much-worse position than I, took the time to pray for me... for what he thought was $2. And his $2.00 prayer renewed me just a bit. When have I ever been so grateful for just a few dollars? Not in a long while. Not until that moment.
So, no... catfood is not all I picked up at Walgreen's today.