My daughter, Zula’s, birthday was coming and I went to the store to get her a present. I knew just what I wanted – a drink n’ wet doll that would help us with our potty training (plus she loves dolls so I knew it’d be a win/win).
I started on the opposite end of the store so I could pick up a few food items before I got the doll (which would take up the majority of the room in my basket). As I searched the food aisles, I got a little frustrated because, even though I’d been to this store a hundred times, I couldn’t find the raisins. After searching every aisle twice I remembered where they were…in the back by the juice. (This little tidbit might seem terribly irrelevant and a boring addition to the story, but it is important, I promise.)
Okay. This is the part of the story where I need to share a very bad, maybe good, but definitely annoying habit I have. I straighten store shelves and often put items back where they belong. I try to do it discreetly so no one notices, and quickly so I don’t slow myself down too much. But, in another seemingly insignificant (but rather relevant) addition to the story, I felt prompted to hurry through the store and NOT do this. I felt a desire to hustle so I could go back home and be with my family. I confidently resisted the urge to straighten several shelves, align the candy bags, and fold all the baby clothes.
On the way to the toy section, I saw a pack of colored Sharpies on a sale table. I love Sharpies, but when I picked them up I saw that they weren’t on sale, just misplaced. This was the first time in the store that I felt the urge to put something back where it belonged. The other temptations I could resist, but I felt I shouldn’t fight this one.
As I looked at the Sharpies in my hand, I tried to hold onto the thought that I was in a hurry. I didn’t have time to put them back where they belonged. My priority was to get the doll and go home to be with my family. So I put them back on the sale table and left, thinking I was a little crazy. (I’m not going to lie, I often think I’m crazy.)
As I rolled away, I had a thought that seemed to flutter through my mind: What if I miss a blessing because I didn’t put the Sharpies away?
With that, I turned around and picked up the Sharpies. I couldn’t immediately find where they were supposed to go and I thought maybe I had misinterpreted the prompting. Maybe I was supposed to buy the Sharpies instead. So I put them in my basket.
I know, I know. This story seems full of random details, but trust me, all of them are important and collectively led to a miraculously wonderful happy ending.
I continued to the toys and was immediately overwhelmed by the enormity of that section. After much, much searching, I finally found the only drink n’ wet doll. I put it in my basket and left to check out, but stopped. Something didn’t seem right. I felt like I shouldn’t get the doll. The feeling was so strong that I panicked – This is what I came for! This is what I woke up so early to come and get, everything else was extra – I came for this toy! I cried a little and prayed, but felt it wasn’t right to get the doll. I called Whit and he said to get it, but after I hung up the phone I just couldn’t. I put it back. I tried to find another toy, but there was nothing. The toy section that initially seemed enormous seemed so small and empty.
I finally gave up the toy search and thought maybe I’d take the Sharpies back – maybe the blessing I didn’t want to miss out on was the perfect misplaced toy in the office supply aisle. I asked a worker where to go and wondered why I’d forgotten – I really knew where it was.
I put the Sharpies back on the hook and looked around hopefully, but I didn’t see anything except office supplies. Not the best gift for a 2-year-old.
In the next aisle, I saw a tall, skinny high school kid with shoulder-length curly brown hair. He was looking at the calculators. When I saw him I was startled, not because of him, but because of what I suddenly knew when I saw him: I needed to buy him a calculator.
Yes. This was as awkward as you think it was.
I asked him if he was in the market for a calculator (I know, I know. But I didn’t know what else to say).
He said he was.
I asked him which one he wanted.
He held the one up in his hand. He said it was the cheapest and would probably work. He explained that he was on his way to take the ACT at school in a few minutes. I asked him if that calculator had all of the functions he needed (this is the extent of my calculator knowledge; I don’t even know what a “function” is).
He studied it for a second and said he could get by.
I pointed to a more expensive calculator (by only a few dollars) and asked him if it would be better. After a very close examination he said that it would be, but he’d just stick with the less expensive one.
With great hesitation and a deep breath I said, “Why not get the more expensive calculator and let me buy it?”
It couldn’t have been more than an uncomfortable moment, but I still didn’t breathe as he lifted his head in slow motion, his brown curls covering half his thin face. But his eyes shined through and locked onto mine as he whispered Really?
The mother inside me exploded. My wheelchair was the only thing holding me back from hugging this kid, kissing his forehead, and combing his hair. As he exchanged calculators and got the one he wanted, my heart rejoiced over the fact that I couldn’t find the raisins. And didn’t straighten the candy bags. And put back the Sharpies.
Truly, this was one blessing I did not want to miss.
As we left the store and went our separate ways, all I could think about was how elaborate this whole experience was. The raisins. The hustle. The slow downs. The forgetting.The Sharpies – oh, the Sharpies. It blew my mind thinking of how easily I could have been too fast, or too slow, or in the wrong part of the store to buy this kid a calculator. How small was it for me to buy a calculator, but how HUGE was it for me to be in the right spot at the right time? As I watched him walk away, my heart burned with the knowledge that not one, but two unseen angels were involved.
My daughter never got a drink n’ wet doll from me for her birthday, but in her journal I explained what happened. I told her all about the raisins and the Sharpies and the calculator. I told her about the kid. I told her about the angels. I told her that she will get many gifts throughout her life, but it’s the blessings – for us and for others – that we never want to miss out on. And when we act on those promptings we feel we will never miss a single one.
Stay Blessed and Stay Blessing,