A woman finding it difficult to feel gratitude is reminded that blessings abide, even in tough times.
Normally, I’m the first one to be in the Thanksgiving spirit, but as I pushed my cart through the grocery store I wished we could skip it this year. I passed the turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie without a glance. Mom wouldn’t be with us, and neither would anyone else. What kind of Thanksgiving was that?
Mom was in the hospital and not doing well. Our two sons were living out of state and wouldn’t be able to make the long drive. Friends had invited us over, but I wasn’t feeling up to it. “I’m just not very good company right now,” I’d told them. Distraught was more like it, with not much to feel thankful for.
I tossed a head of lettuce into my cart to go with the roast I had at home. Turkey and fixings could wait till next year. With just Dale and me to cook for, why make a feast?
I wheeled my cart into the checkout line. The woman bagging groceries chatted with the couple in front of me. “Y’all havin’ guests?” She sounded genuinely interested. Friendly and warm. For a minute, she almost made me forget about my troubles.
“Hi, there!” she said, smiling when it was my turn. “You plannin’ on cookin’ at home today?”
“Yes...yes, I am,” I said.
“Hmmm...say, do you like turkey?”
“Love it,” I answered.
“How ’bout cranberry salad?”
“Yes, that too.”
“And pumpkin pie?”
I nodded. “My favorite.” She was describing one of my usual Thanksgiving spreads to a tee. But I won’t be having any of that this year, I thought.
“Well, how would you like to have all of those things and more, already cooked—ready for you to eat and enjoy? And it’s on the house!”
Huh? “Why me?” I asked.
“Just come this way,” she said, avoiding my question entirely. Together we walked over to the manager’s office. “I’ve got a taker!” she shouted. Into my cart went two large boxes brimming with food. Dale and I would have a feast after all.
“I didn’t mean to make you cry,” she said.
The words tumbled out before I could stop them. I told her all about Mom. How Dale and I would be eating alone and that I just wasn’t up to cooking a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. And worst of all, how I’d lost sight of the fact that we can always find something to be thankful for, even in tough times.
“Aww, c’mon now,” she said, wrapping me in a big hug. “Obviously, you needed this gift today. And I’ll be sure to say some prayers for your mama.”
By the time I got back home, I was so excited about our dinner that I practically ran through the front door. “Dale! Dale! You won’t believe what I’ve got!”
I told him all about the woman bagging groceries at the supermarket. We fixed ourselves a couple of plates. I said the grace before we dug in: “Lord, thank you for this food and for the kindness of strangers.”
A few weeks later, I drove to the same supermarket to tell the woman what a delicious Thanksgiving we’d had. She wasn’t there. I tried describing her to the manager, but he didn’t seem to know who I was talking about. In fact, I’ve shopped there nearly every week since, and I’ve yet to see her again.
I like to think of her as my supermarket angel. She filled more than my cart that Thanksgiving. She filled my heart with thanksgiving.
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