Q-tips & Air Freshener

After a morning of errands, we decided to browse a nearby Dollar Store in search of some silly trinkets for her dorm room. Walking through the tight aisles nothing really grabbed our attention so we decided to leave and grab coffee at our favorite spot. As we headed toward the door, a young woman approached us with arms outstretched. She was holding two items, an air freshener and a box of Q-tips. “Could you please lend me $2.50 for these things that I need?” Reaching into my purse, I offered her all the money that was in my wallet, silently regretting a missed stop at the bank this morning. I provided her with enough to purchase her items, but wished that I had more to give her. Smiling and looking directly into her downcast eyes I said “Here you go, please take care.” She thanked me and rushed to the register to pay for her treasures. Leaving the store Emma turned to me quietly and said “I don’t think we were meant to buy anything today.” I agreed sharing “sometimes God puts us exactly where we are meant to be.”

I thought about this encounter all weekend. I wondered what type of life this young woman lived and how she ended up looking so sad. It pained me to think that she shopped at the Dollar Store for essential items. In today’s society one could easily look at this situation and make a shallow judgement about the young woman or anyone like her who dared to ask for help from a stranger. Thankfully, my parents taught me that such thinking is not only wrong, it is downright evil. I recall, with fondness, my mom giving to anyone who asked for her help. When people would scorn her generosity warning; “they will just use it for alcohol or drugs” she would kindly reply, “well…you never know – it is better to err on the side of kindness and pray – it could be Jesus.”

Mom’s generosity of heart and spirit reminded me of the gospel we heard on Sunday. It was the famous story of the prodigal son who returned home after squandering his father’s money. The father welcomed the younger son home with open arms and treated him with love and forgiveness. Our Pastor took a different approach in his homily and focussed on the mistakes of the elder brother who looked down on his younger brother and judged him. Fr. Mark shared “The resentment in the elder brother’s heart was like a spiritual poison. It caused him to turn away from God’s grace.” I appreciated Fr. Mark’s approach because it made me see things in this story that I had failed to recognize before. We cannot be judgmental of others. We are called to look for the best in people. Once we receive God’s grace, we are called to pass it on. The elder brother’s envy blinded him, leading him to ingratitude for his many blessings. Thus the elder brother was unable to comprehend the depth of his Father’s love. The father had more than enough love for both of his sons. The father in this story is like God, who has more than enough love for every person – you, me and the young lady at the store.

I’ve added the young woman from the Dollar Store to my prayer list. I ask that God bless her life and provide for all her needs. I admire her courage in reaching out to ask for help when she needed it. I hope others will respond kindly to her in the future. We are called to look for the best in others – not judge. Fr. Mark closed his homily with a beautiful poem which I was lucky enough to find. I hope you find it as inspiring as I did and go forth in love and kindness as my beautiful mother always did.

When I say, “I am a Christian”
I’m not shouting, “I’ve been saved!”
I’m whispering, “I get lost sometimes
That’s why I chose this way


When I say, “I am a Christian”
I don’t speak with human pride
I’m confessing that I stumble
needing God to be my guide


When I say, “I am a Christian”
I’m not trying to be strong
I’m professing that I’m weak
and pray for strength to carry on


When I say, “I am a Christian”
I’m not bragging of success
I’m admitting that I’ve failed
and cannot ever pay the debt


When I say, “I am a Christian”
I don’t think I know it all
I submit to my confusion
asking humbly to be taught


When I say, “I am a Christian”
I’m not claiming to be perfect
My flaws are far too visible
but God believes I’m worth it


When I say, “I am a Christian”
I still feel the sting of pain
I have my share of heartache
which is why I seek God’s name


When I say, “I am a Christian”
I do not wish to judge
I have no authority
I only know I’m loved

– Carol Wimmer 1988

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