'Good afternoon," you said as you walked past me in the store.
"Hello," I replied.
You stopped, turned around and came back to me. You caught one.
"Thank you for speaking. You know, people don't speak anymore and I am in such a distressed state that any kind word is appreciated ..."
And so it began -- your story. You were from out of town, Florida, and had woken up that morning to a telephone call from your mother's nursing home in Georgia. She had died unexpectedly, bless her heart, and you grabbed your children and wife and got in the car and came right away. Only, you ran out of gas. Just a few miles from here, it happened, and someone picked you up and took you to the gas station. But unfortunately you could only buy a dollar's worth of gas because it appears your runaway, no-good daughter stole your only credit card. So you bought a dollar's worth of gas with all the change you had in your pocket and you drove to this store and your wife and two small -- small, very small -- children are sitting in the car hungry and hot and you don't know what you are going to do.
"I'm sor...," I started to say but you cut me off, cut me off to tell me that you couldn't believe how cold hearted some people could be. You said hello to one woman and she just stuck her nose up in the air, you said, and another man told you flat out that he didn't talk to people of different races, but you aren't going to judge them because that is up to God, not you, and was I a Christian, you asked, and I could barely say yes before you went on to say one man even told you he would go get some cash back from his debit card and give it to you and your small -- very small -- children waited in your old, broken down car right outside this very store but he never came back.
"I believe God has special plans for people like him," you said and then you shook your head and I told you that I would be happy to buy you some bottles of water and something for your children to eat, but you said, "Oh, no ... I couldn't put you out that way ... just some money to get something for them would be fine," and I said I couldn't do that but let me buy you some water, at least, and you said no and I asked you why your wife and children were in the car and not in the store where at least they would be cool, and you said, well, your wife is handicapped and can't walk very much without being in pain and, hey, if I could just loan you some money to get to your mother's nursing home, you would pay me back, send it to me in the mail, you said, and I could trust you because we were both good Christian people.
I told you I was sorry but I couldn't help you with money, but I told you I would pray for you. "I will pray for you," I said and you shook your head and walked off and I kept to my word and said quietly, "Help him, Lord," because I believe you truly do need help, just not the kind you say you do, and I felt bad, truly bad, for having to doubt someone like that.
I picked up the few things I needed and headed to check out and there you were, a few cashiers over, buying cigarettes with, wait, is that a credit card? Surely not since your runaway, no-good daughter stole your only one. Did you suddenly find her in the store where you were reunited with her and your credit card? It's a miracle! And by the way I hope you find your handicapped wife and your small, hungry children because when I walked out into the parking lot and saw you getting in your big shiny SUV no one seemed to be in there but three other guys with the music turned up real loud and they were laughing and it made me kind of sick to my stomach.
But it's not up to me to judge, no matter how sick it makes me.
I believe God has special plans for people like him.
Contact columnist Mandy Flynn at firstname.lastname@example.org.