I couldn't have planned it. It was one of those times where everything fell together in just the right way. One of those things that I choose to believe was a reminder from God.
I was at Target. I had finished shopping and I had four large bags of groceries plus cat food and toilet paper. Add in a diaper bag, a squirming baby, and the kind of wind gusts that send grocery carts traveling across the parking lot and it's safe to say that my hands were full. The pavement slanted just enough so that my cart kept sliding away from my car (aided by the wind), so I was trying to load the groceries with one hand while keeping the other on my cart. My hair was in my eyes. My basket was next to my car and angled into the neighboring parking spot which helped to prevent it from rolling away. Then, of course, Sam picked that moment to decide he didn't want to go into his car seat. I was frazzled. I was getting ticked off. I might have been muttering death threats under my breath.
Suddenly, a car came flying around mine and tried to pull into the spot next to me. It was a large, sparkling white, luxury SUV. The problem was that my basket was in the way. Breaks squealed as the car jerked to a stop, the transmission jumped as the driver threw it into reverse, the engine revved as the car pulled into the spot and nudged my basket. (Nevermind the multiple empty parking spots!) The door flew open, and out jumped a perfectly coiffed and manicured woman in designer workout gear. She gave me a long disapproving look, issued a deep sigh, and shoved my basket out of the way so she could get past. I bit back the urge to make a snarky comment - for which I feel I deserve a medal - and finished loading my car. As I backed out of my spot I noticed two bumper stickers on the back of her Lexus: one for a prestigious Ivy League school and one for a local church. I was so angry my stomach was in knots.
I still had one stop to make - a quick trip into another grocery store - so I drove through McDonald's to get a drink and let my blood pressure settle down a little. 20 minutes later I had finished my shopping and was leaving Sprouts with one bag of groceries and a happy baby. I was calmer but still feeling disgruntled.
As I walked across the parking lot I noticed that a car was pulling into the spot next to mine. It was an old, beat-up Pontiac with exhaust pouring out the tailpipe. I took in the rusted paint, different colored fenders, and bumper sticker for the local Spanish radio station on the back bumper. And internally I rolled my eyes. In the seconds that it took me to cross the lot to my car an elderly man with a cane had gotten out of the Pontiac and was coming around the back of his car. I avoided eye contact. As I opened my lift gate I heard him speak. "Here, let me get that for you, m'am." I turned and he was lifting my one bag of groceries into the back of my SUV with a smile on his face. I was dumbfounded. Then he leaned on his cane and made silly faces at Sam until he was rewarded with a big smile and a giggle or two. I thanked him for his help, and he insisted on waiting until I got Sam loaded into the car so he could take my basket back into the store for me. When I thanked him again he said "You've got your hands plenty full - the least I can do is to take your basket for you". As I pulled away I noticed his car had a handicapped license plate...yet he wasn't parked in a handicap space. There were plenty available, but he had chosen a regular space farther from the door.
I'm sure that sweet man never gave a second thought to what he did this morning. I really don't think he walked away congratulating himself on his kindness. But that simple act of kindness from a stranger drove home a message for me. At church recently we've been discussing how the main message we should carry is the one of the cross. The message of humility. The message of bowing down more than we stand up. It's a message that doesn't make sense to human logic. It's far beyond our comprehension, and the more we try to reason our way through it the farther we get from the point of Jesus and him crucified.
It made no sense that a frail, handicapped, elderly man would go out of his way to help me with my one bag of groceries. It makes no sense that he would take time to stand in the hot Texas sun and coax a smile out of a baby he'd never seen before. On the other hand, it makes perfect sense that a woman who was healthy, wealthy, wise, and religious (according to the bumper stickers) would, at the very least, not add to the frustrations of an already frazzled mommy. And as I pondered those things on the way home I remembered...
God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong ~1 Corinthians 1:27
God reminded me today to not look at appearances. To not be drawn to the things of this world. God reminded me that what is most important to Him is not what so many times is most important to me. And I pray that next time I see a run-down, rusted over Pontiac I won't be so quick to jump to conclusions.