I BUY MOST OF MY GROCERIES at our local Walmart. Last Monday, I took my weekly excursion. I parked my truck and headed toward the store. Walking across the acre of asphalt, I passed a man who stood at the back of his car, loading his bags into the trunk. It would help him out, saving him a trip to the cart return, if I took his empty shopping buggy off his hands.
I stopped by his car. “Is that a good buggy?”
Some buggies are hard to steer. They have one wonky wheel that wobbles the whole time. Or they pull to the right, constantly forcing you to correct your direction, and it’s impossible to steer with only one hand.
Buggy quality is important. I asked a reasonable question.
He turned from shutting his trunk and placed his hands lightly on the edge of the wire basket. He had a contemplative look on his face as he studied it.
“You know . . .” He paused for a moment. “It is. It doesn’t make any noise, and it rolls like a champ.” He had a slight sense of pride in his voice as he answered in his Texas drawl.
We smiled, and I took the buggy off his hands.
It pays to notice the small things. I think that’s how God speaks to us.
He speaks to each of us every day. The question is, do we listen? Sometimes God speaks to us on behalf of someone else. You could be the answer to someone’s prayer, someone you don’t even know. But if you’re not paying attention, you’ll miss it.
Recently I read a story about two police officers who responded to a report of a car accident. A mother and her infant daughter were on their way home, and the car had gone off the road in the dead of night. When the officers arrived at the scene, they heard a voice calling from the woods. The cries guided them to the car. Tragically, they found the mother deceased, but the baby still lived. The only explanation the men could come up with was a miracle had occurred, and the voice of an angel had guided them to the child. Fortunately, they had paid attention.
Another story I read told about a person driving home from work one evening. He was on his normal route when he suddenly felt directed to take a gallon of milk to a random house. Though he didn’t know the people living in the house, he followed the urging of the Holy Spirit. When he knocked on the door, a woman answered. He heard the cries of a baby from somewhere inside. He handed the woman the gallon of milk, explaining why he was there. She burst into tears. She told him her husband had died, and she had used the last of her money to pay rent. There was no food in the house for her baby.
These stories make me long to be used that way. How wonderful to both hear God speak and then be able to make a difference for someone. I want that.
So sometimes I actually do pay attention and I get the message. I’m sure there are far more that I miss. But when I do? The feeling of being used by God to do good in someone’s life, to know that God’s action—through you—counteracted the plan of Satan to harm someone . . . well, there’s nothing else like it.
Every summer my teacher friends and I go to South Padre Island for a week of sun and relaxation once school lets out. It’s a long drive from my home, over 500 miles. We’re on the road a good solid ten hours after we add in bathroom breaks, stopping for gas, and eating. This particular summer, we got off to a late start. One woman had a flat tire when she went out to her car, so we had to wait for her to arrive. Then I realized I had forgotten to go to the bank to get cash. We had to drive back into town, which added almost 30 minutes more. My carelessness frustrated and annoyed me.
We passed a softball park on our way to the bank. A woman sat on the curb of the parking lot, next to her van. She grasped her head in her hands and stared at the ground. Dejection shouted from the slumped lines of her shoulders and back. Obviously, something was wrong. I saw her. I saw her need.
We’re already late! I’m not stopping. Maybe she’s just resting after a jog, I told myself.
I didn’t mention her to the others, who were all chatting excitedly now that we were finally on our way. No one else had noticed her.
But God convicted my heart. When I realized I had ignored His voice, tuned out His nudging, it crushed me. I had missed an opportunity to be used.
I prayed, God, please keep her there. If she is sitting on the curb when we pass back by, I’ll pull into the park and talk to her. I’m sorry I didn’t listen.
I finished at the bank, then hurried back down the road. As we crested the hill, the softball park appeared on my left. She was still there, sitting by her van. It didn’t look like she had moved an inch.
I pulled into the parking lot. “Hold on, ladies. I need to do something.”
They all glanced around, confused, surprised we were stopping.
I hopped out of the truck, walked over to the woman, and sat down beside her. “You seem sad. Are you OK? Is there anything I can do for you?”
We talked for almost 15 minutes. She was depressed, anxious about her bills, unsure how she would pay rent, and alone after her boyfriend had left her. I prayed with her and gave her the number to the counselor at my church.
I don’t know how her story ended. I never saw her again. But it felt good that I had noticed her, that I had heard God’s voice, that I had obeyed His urging in my heart.
It’s the small things in life that matter. I pray you will notice the moments God places in front of you. I pray you will allow yourself to be God’s hands and feet. I pray you will be grateful for the moments, the gifts God places in front of you.
And I pray that one of those gifts is you always get a good shopping buggy!