The rain poured down–one of those summer rains that comes down hard and cool and makes your car windows steam up. After eight hours on my feet at Hardee’s, the last thing I wanted to do was fight the rain and the crowd at the A&P across the street. But it was Mom’s day off, and she needed a few items for supper, so I would fight both the rain and the crowd.
I jumped out of Mom’s yellow Ford pinto wagon and made a run for the store. People milled about everywhere trying to get in and out of the store and in and out of their cars without succumbing to the rain. Perhaps it was actually all the movement that caused me to catch just a glimpse of the one motionless little woman standing off to the side.
Stoop shouldered and fragile looking, she stood there alone with a bag in her arms. It was the middle of July, but still, she wore a sweater over her neatly pressed plain straight dress. She looked like a sweet lady, and I hoped she didn’t have to stand under the awning too much longer waiting for her son or daughter to bring the car around.
I pushed through the door and into the A&P. Hurrying along, I went from aisle to aisle picking up the items Mom needed. In no time, I turned the corner and headed for the check-out lines. I chose the line that looked like it would be the quickest, but of course, that’s never the way it works out. By the time I finally got checked out, all I could think about was getting myself home.
Outside the rain fell harder than ever. I stopped for a moment to plan my path to the car, and again, I caught a glimpse of the little woman off to the side. She still stood there with the bag in her arms. I wondered why she hadn’t left. I wondered if I should say something, and if so, what? I started to step off the curb toward the car, but instead, my feet took me right over to her. “Hello,” I said. She returned the pleasantry, and then we fell silent. I really wanted to be half way home by now, but somehow I just couldn’t leave that little lady until I knew someone was coming for her. “Do you have a way home?” I asked shyly.
“I called a cab, honey, but law, that was 45 minutes ago,” she said softly. Hoping for the best, I looked out into the rain just sure I would see the cab turning into the parking lot. I really needed to be on my way, but no cab materialized. How long would she stand there alone holding that bag of groceries? I didn’t know what to do. Mom expected me home, and she would worry if I was late. After all, I had only had my driver’s license for a few weeks. But I couldn’t just leave her standing there, either. The little woman won out.
“Where do you live?” I asked. “I would be glad to take you home.”
“Oh, dear, I wouldn’t want to put you out,” she resisted.
I assured her that I didn’t mind at all and that she certainly would not put me out. She smiled weakly, and with kind eyes, replied, “I sure would appreciate it, honey. My apartment is just up the way there.” I told her to stay put until I brought the car around. She sure didn’t need to get any wetter. I ran to the car, put my own bags in, then drove around and helped the little woman in.
As I drove, we talked. I learned that her name was Virginia. She grew up in a little holler way back in the mountains but moved away when she became a teacher. She taught for over 40 years before retiring. She went about her life, but in the back of her mind, the mountains started calling her name, bidding her to come home. So, a year earlier, she returned home to the mountains. She told me all about how life was in the early 1900s and how things had changed. I became so interested that before I realized it, we had arrived at her apartment.
We got out of the car, and as I picked up her groceries, a woman passed by, smiled a big smile, and said, “Hi, Miss Ginnie.” (I liked “Miss Ginnie” much better than Virginia, and the name seemed to fit the petite woman.) I carried the groceries up the stairs and into her apartment. As I unloaded my arms, Miss Ginnie offered me a glass of tea, but explaining that my mom would be worried if I was much later, I declined. As I turned to leave she called for me to wait. I turned around to see her digging through a drawer. She kept saying she had to give me something for driving her home.
As she searched through the drawer, I looked around the room. Miss Ginnie owned nothing fancy, but everything was neat and perfectly placed. I was not surprised. I looked back to see that she found what she was looking for. She put something akin to a pot holder in my hand and explained that it was a coaster to hold a hot bowl or pot up off the table so it wouldn’t burn the wood.
“It’s not much,” she said, “but I want you to have something.” She may not have thought it was much, but I thought it was marvelous! A closer look revealed that she had sewn cloth around individual bottle caps and had then sewn the caps together in a circle. The small, neat stitches revealed the time and effort Miss Ginnie had put into the handmade craft. I humbly accepted her gift, then hugged and thanked her. We parted company, and I headed home. Somehow the rain didn’t bother me any longer; I was carrying a bit of Miss Ginnie’s sunshine with me.
She didn’t know it, and I don’t think I knew it right at that moment, but Miss Ginnie gave me a whole lot more than a coaster that day. She planted a seed in my heart. I never saw her again, but I have carried Miss Ginnie with me for 50 years now. In just those few minutes, she taught me about giving to others even when you don’t think you have time to do so and even if you have little to give. She taught me that there is always time for kindness and gratefulness. And Miss Ginnie taught me to look beyond what I see with my eyes and look for Jesus in those who stand silently and alone just waiting to be surprised by someone like you or me. God sent Miss Ginnie to me. Of that, I am sure!
Matthew 25:40 The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”