Friday, March 23, 2018

Random Act of Kindness: Prayer

The best soccer partner!

I've officially been replaced!

St. Patrick's half marathon with two of my favorites.

At the grocery store, I am mission-oriented and efficient.  Usually, my grocery run is crammed between an appointment and a school pickup.  I don't have the luxury of browsing over nutrition labels, debating over the sodium content of one tomato soup versus another.  That sort of introspection would require minutes, and those precious minutes could cost me a trip to the frozen food section (where Ben & Jerry is patiently waiting for me). 

Today was no different.  I wedged my grocery trip between a run and an appointment.  If I was lucky, I could spend 45 minutes within the store.  (An added complicating factor for any store excursion is the chance of running into a chatty friend or neighbor.  Should this occur, my ability to connect with Ben & Jerry is nil.)

I raced through the store and landed at the register in record time.  The cashier, a seasoned pro, treated the conveyor belt as an olympic sport.  She moved item after item off the belt with a pace that would make an adept sprinter swoon.

I lined the belt with an apple bag, bread, pasta sauce, and milk jugs.  Perishables and staples filled the entire length of the conveyor.  The women in front of me was whipping out her credit card to pay for her groceries.  I was minutes away from leaving the store.

From a few aisles over, I heard the cries.  The howls and wails commanded attention; everyone within earshot turned towards the commotion.

It was a scene.  A stocky, adolescent boy flopped around on the ground like a fish that had just unwillingly emerged from the sea.  His arms were flailing, and his legs kicked with the same amount of intensity.  A white-haired gentleman, seemingly feeble in nature, was attempting to pull him off the ground while managing a grocery cart full of items.

The situation was puzzling.  The boy was way past the age for a toddler-sized fit.  He appeared mentally sound and physically capable.  I had my suspicions about the boy.  As one with some experience, I observed signs that the boy was autistic.  The man, it appeared, was perhaps his grandfather.  Something in the hustle and bustle of the checkout lines made this boy's head spin and pulled him into a full-on melt down.

Tears welled in my eyes.  My heart went out to the man struggling with the boy, and the boy struggling with the man. 

 I have been there before.  Having a child behave inexplicably and poorly in public ranks as one of my least favorite experiences.  Embarrassment, fear, and hopelessness wash over the caretaker.

I immediately prayed about how I should help.  From this situation, I stood a few lanes over. The conveyor belt was already filled with my items and the cashier was actively ringing up my things.  A line of customers were posed behind me in the wait.  I was boxed in.

A hardy gentleman approached the boy and the man. He grabbed the man's grocery cart and pushed it towards the exit while uttering soothing words.  Another man assisted with the boy.  There wasn't much left for any other bystanders to do. 

But I continued to pray.

When we hear stories of the kindness of strangers, we see the actions.  Those are the stories listed on social media or covered in the news. They are important and amazing acts of charity, affection, and mercy.  But sometimes the role God has for us is to let others do the legwork, while we are to hit our knees (figuratively) in prayer.  I believe God calls some people to help out, but He calls other people to pray.  The praying is just as important.

By the time all my groceries were bagged, I walked by the aisle of the scene.  The boy, man, and their shopping cart were long gone.  I sent up one last prayer.  The scene may be finished, but the prayers don't have to end.

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