Last night I picked my daughter up from class and on the way home we stopped at the grocery store. We loaded up what we needed and then made our way back to the car. As I was unloading the cart I could hear what sounded like someone in near hysteria. We shut the hatch and as we came around to the front of the car I saw her. She was one row over and one space down from us. She was crying, talking to someone on the phone. All at the same time I heard the baby in the back seat crying but also the woman sobbing – “I had $ 90 in my wallet… now it’s gone. I don’t have enough gas to get home. The baby’s diaper needs changed…”
That was all I heard as we both closed our doors. And we sat for what seemed a long moment and with a quick word, my daughter walked around the car and gave her $ 20 to get home. It was over in a minute or two. She wanted to get our phone number to repay us but my daughter said “no.” We were driving away before either my daughter or I had thought much about any of it.
But as we drove away I found myself thinking all kinds of thoughts. The first thing that came from my mouth was “Grandpa would have helped her.” And my daughter agreed. It’s funny isn’t it — of all the thoughts tumbling around in my head what percolated to the top was that we did what my dad would have done? He would have, too. He probably would have done more than we did now that I think about it.
I thought, too, I did it because I would want someone to help my daughters if one of them were crying in the parking lot without enough gas to get home.
And I realized, too, that I hope my daughters or son would say so their fellow traveler in the same spot “My dad would have done that.”
In some strange way in that moment I realized that my grieving over my dad’s death in May of 2011 was in a different place. I wasn’t sad, I didn’t miss him (although I do miss him all the time) — I was glad for my dad, for his life, for his generosity, for his quiet way of doing amazing things about which almost no one knew or cared. But they were things that changed people’s lives.
I hope somehow that $ 20 changed that young woman’s life. I don’t know if it will. Or did. But I realize that God works in these ways – through and in people. My faith goes back to a man who lived thousands of years ago named Abram and in whose life God intervened in highly personal ways. My faith is in a person whom the world respects as a great teacher and some see as God’s revelation and His son (as do I).
I think my dad would like that I got all of that out of that moment in a parking lot. And I like that I know that, too.