Updated: Dec 4, 2020
It was a Saturday morning in 1992, and I had awoken earlier than my two-year-old son. I made my way to the refrigerator and surveyed the sparse contents. A wave of panic came over me. Payday wasn’t until the following Friday, and I was down to my last $20. With the money I had, I needed to put gas in my car for my two-hour round-trip daily commute, and somehow feed my baby for the week. A familiar sense of hopelessness settled into my chest as I wondered, how?
After getting my little boy ready for our outing, I took that $20 and him for a ride to the store. As I drove, I silently asked GOD to help me figure this out. I knew it would take at least half of my cash to fuel the car for the commute to work. That left only $10 for our weekly groceries. I thought of what I could buy for the money, milk, beans, pasta. Would there be enough for eggs?
A tear ran down my cheek as I pulled into the parking lot and inched closer to the store-front. Ahead on the ground, like a beacon, something moved. I pulled forward until I was near and opened my car door to see what it was. Unbelievably, a wad of cash rested on the asphalt beside my car.
For a moment, I considered my options. I knew stealing was bad, and that I should report it. Just as quickly as my moral high ground admonished, another rational voice intoned, If they could carelessly drop the money, it can’t mean as much to them as it does to you. You need this. I snatched the bills into my hand and pulled into a parking spot.
Upon closer inspection, I found it was $80! It was more money than I’d had in a long time as my job barely paid for rent, gas, food, and child-care. Again, I thought about returning the money. I knew it was wrong to keep it, but I was desperate, and I’d asked GOD for help. Maybe, this was his way. I kept the money.
Needless to say, our grocery shopping experience was a blast. I got eggs and hamburger, vegetables and even a box of Cheese Its. There was plenty of money left over for gas and then some. That night, I took my son on a date to Carlos Murphy’s, where we ate out for the first time in a long time, and not on the night when children’s meals were a penny a pound. I looked forward to the occasional Tuesday kids special because my boy ate so little, I could pick at his food too.
Many years have passed since that fateful day in the parking lot. I’ve often wondered about the person who lost the $80, hoping my assumptions were correct and that the money wasn’t quite as precious to them as it was to me. I’ve repaid the money many times over, helping others when I could. More importantly, that moment of profound fear and faith resonated deeply. There have been dark moments since, and when things get low, I recall that answered prayer with wonder.