October 25, 2013

Emmaus Walk / Debra Tomaselli

Course of study: The Divine Economy 101 and God’s generosity

Debra TomaselliI didn’t want to help her. I really didn’t.

I zipped into the parking lot of the new craft store. That’s when I saw her.

The woman, with shoulder-length frizzy hair, looked like a peasant in a long-tiered, paisley skirt. She held a cardboard sign with big block letters containing the words “help” and “no work.”

As I drove by, our eyes met.

Instinctively, I looked away.

I’m not going to stop, I thought. I don’t have time. I don’t have anything to give.

I drove to the furthest part of the lot and raced into the store.

Once inside, I found the stationery I needed and purchased it with the promise that it could be returned if I found a better deal elsewhere.

Exiting, I glanced in the direction of the beggar, hoping she had disappeared.

Unfortunately, she hadn’t. She was still standing in the sweltering sun, holding her cardboard sign.

I hopped in my car and drove in the opposite direction. I’d nearly exited the lot when a nagging inner voice urged me to return.

I drove up to her and rolled my window down. The woman slowly stepped forward.

“What kind of help do you need?” I asked.

“Money,” she said. Despite her broken English, I learned the woman was from Guatemala and couldn’t work because of a green card problem. Oddly, she also requested a gift card from the nearby grocery.

I can’t afford that, I thought. I didn’t have time for that. Instead, I handed her cash.

The woman accepted the money with a gracious smile. “Thank you,” she said. She waved goodbye as I drove away.

That should have been it, but something told me to get her the gift card.

Really, I thought. Hadn’t I already helped her? Why do more?

However, almost in a daze, I parked my car, entered the grocery and purchased a gift card. On the way out, I bought a chilled soda for her too.

Once outside, I delivered the gifts to the woman, who was still standing in the sweltering lot.

She thanked me, and I left.

I never expected the gift to come back to me, but the unexpected happened later that afternoon when I found similar stationery for a lower price. I returned my original purchase and was heading to the cashier with the new boxes in hand when a fellow shopper stopped me.

“Do you want this coupon?” she asked. She thrust a piece of paper in my direction.

I accepted it, not realizing its value.

At the register, the calculations astounded me. The little coupon was priceless, producing a refund that exceeded my expectations. In fact, the final return amounted to more money than I’d given away.

I’ve always heard that God will not be outdone in generosity. Indeed, my gift to the Guatemalan woman had multiplied and returned in abundance—all in the same day.

And to think … I almost didn’t help.

(Debra Tomaselli writes from Altamonte Springs, Florida. She can be reached at dtomaselli@cfl.rr.com.)

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