Learning to Listen

It was a busy day. I had multiple errands to run, mainly birthday shopping for the almost 10-year-old, and sick kids at home. I had been running around most of the morning and I was anxious to be done. I had two more errands to run, one of which took me to Hobby Lobby to get a model rocket.

I pulled into the parking lot and sighed as I saw the banner announcing the store had moved. Luckily it hadn’t moved far away, but it was more hassle. I drove around to the shopping center exit and waited a few cars back for the light to change.

This shopping center frequently has people standing in the median as you come and go asking for monetary assistance. Today it was an older woman. It wasn’t terribly cold, but the wind had a sharp nip to it. She hunched a bit over her sign as she walked in just her sweatshirt and worn jeans, with thin gloves on her hands. I usually don’t carry cash, and I’m reluctant to give money anyway, but I am always more than happy to give food.  I didn’t really need the quick glance around the car to tell me I had nothing to offer.

“You need to go to Walmart after Hobby Lobby anyway, you could always come back to the one in this shopping center and get some things for her,” my inner voice considered.

I watched the man in the truck at the front of the line give her money. The joy and gratitude on her face made me smile. I caught a glimpse of the man’s grin in his side mirror. I quietly offered a prayer of thanks that someone was able to help her and considered my job done.  The light turned green and I pulled away.

In the short drive to Hobby Lobby I had quite the argument with myself.

“You should definitely go to that Walmart to get your stuff. I’m sure she could use it. You love to serve. Why are you being a pill about this? It’s not that far out of the way, half a mile maybe, she probably won’t even be there when I get back (this has happened before), but she might,” the list ran on and on. I found my model rocket and headed back up the road to the same shopping center I had just left.

I shook my head as I pulled into the parking lot and the woman was nowhere to be seen. “I’m off the hook,” I thought as I parked.

It took me longer than I thought it would to decide on which matchbox cars to get the birthday boy. Lunchtime was way past. All I wanted to do was go home and check on the kids. Even though Paul was working from home and could field emergencies, he couldn’t just chill and commiserate with how icky they felt.

Again I felt the prompting to buy some food. I frowned. “She’s not even outside,” I argued. Again the urge to purchase some food came. I sighed.  I was in the store anyway, it wouldn’t take that much longer and if she wasn’t there it wasn’t like the kids wouldn’t eat it. I headed to the grocery section and picked up a few things that were healthy and would last without being refrigerated.

As I carried my bags out to the van I had a silent conversation with Heavenly Father. “Here’s the deal,” I told Him, “If I see her I’ll stop and give the stuff to her, but if I don’t see her before I leave the parking lot then it’s just not meant to be.”

Feeling like we had come to an agreement, I hopped in the van and pulled around to the exit. She wasn’t there. Of course, I had to wait at the red light for a while. As I sat there I looked around and my eyes drifted to the Burger King on the side of the road. There, sitting in the warmth of the restaurant by the big glass window was the woman.

I had seen her. Before I left the parking lot. And of course, I was in the farthest left turn only lane (because it was closest to the median where I had seen her standing), with no way to switch lanes. I’d have to make the left turn drive down over the freeway – basically back to Hobby Lobby to turn around.

The light turned green and the silent conversation started.

“I have sick kids. I’ve been gone a long time. I only sort of saw her, she wasn’t where I could hand her the groceries.”

“But you saw her, you promised, turn around and go back.”

“I’m tired, I want to relax a moment before the school kids get home.” I think my list of pitiful excuses went on for a while.

“Dude,” my inner voice commanded, “why are you being so stubborn? Usually you have no problem with these moments.”

I shrugged to myself. “Just tired I guess. I seriously just want to put my feet up a moment.”

And then that sweet gentle chastising that can only come from a loving Heavenly Father. “So, you are anxious to go home to your family and relax? What of this woman who has no home and no place to just go and relax. How do you expect to feed my sheep if you aren’t willing to serve as the moments arrive.”

I turned into the Hobby Lobby and spun that van around like my tires were on fire. “Why did it take me so long to get my act together?” I questioned.

A sudden a thought popped into my head. “Put a pass-along card in the bag.” I almost laughed out loud. Of course! I slipped a card with a picture of Jesus Christ into the bag. “Maybe I just needed time to get around to getting that little card in the bag. If I had done it fast without the arguing, I probably would have forgotten, and maybe she needed to know that she was being watched over and loved by Christ and God.

“I get it now,” I whispered as I drove to the shopping center for the third time. I bit my lip when at first I didn’t see her outside or inside. But then I saw her admiring a couple’s adorable baby. I parked the car, grabbed the groceries and hurried inside.

I think I learned more and received more that day than the two bags of groceries I gave the woman. I learned even more the importance of listening and following the promptings and thoughts of kindness we have. I also was reminded that the adversary is unceasing in his efforts to get us to do what is opposite to God’s will and that we need to rise above these negative and selfish thoughts. I felt so much joy on the drive home and gratitude to God for giving me this opportunity to serve one of His children.

So, moral of the story?

Don’t argue when prompted to do a good deed.

And

No matter how great you think or feel your needs might be, there is  often someone whose needs are greater than your own.

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1 Comment

Filed under Miscellaneous

One response to “Learning to Listen

  1. April Brewster

    Great story with a great moral! Something I needed to remember today.

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