I went out to do some errands today, and stopped in at Michael’s before I went home.  I wanted to make a bracelet and needed a few supplies.  I had some red coral beads, but since I don’t make jewelry much anymore, I didn’t have all I needed.  I had already made two stops and this was the last thing on my list.  My back was hurting and my feet were hurting and I was hungry.  Not the best of moods to go shopping in!  But, the jewelry findings were near the door and I intended to make quick work of this stop.

But, things have a way of going off the planned path at times…and it seems to happen more often than not with me!

I heard her before I saw her…

VOICE…“Coy, Coy, COY!  You ain’t listening to me.  I said I’d call you when I got finished and that’s what I’m gonna do. ~~~~~~~

No. I ain’t even half through.  You know it takes me longer now.  ~~~~~~~  I’m going fast as I can.  Now go git ya a pizza or something”   She was on a cell phone.

[Talking to her self]  “That fool man ain’t right.  He ain’t right and I’m telling you all here in this store, HE AIN’T RIGHT!  [She yelled that last sentence!]

And, as I rounded the findings aisle…I saw her.  [I write this description simply as information and in no way as a judgement.  I certainly don’t know know any of her backstory.  And many times circumstances dictate the way we look and feel and we may not like it but …it happens]  So, I saw her there in the midst of the aisle…blocking it with her wheelchair.  She was only half in it…the other half hung over either side…bless her heart.  Remember, no finger pointing here…but, she was a larger sized lady.  She had a 2 Liter Mountain Dew in one hand and the other was used to try and roll the wheelchair.  It was hard for her to move it with both feet on the ground.  And a large cylinder of oxygen hung from one side.  It kept falling on the floor, but I never saw her using it.  She was muttering and talking out loud and actually, I thought she must have had someone else shopping with her.  But no…she just needed to talk and it didn’t mat who listened.  “I don’t know why they don’t have teachers round here to teach you how to do this jewel making.  Makes me mad, it does.  How do I know what to do?”

The she backed up and saw me, went back, and then turned around.  UH! OH! she spied me and she headed my way.

WOMAN: ” Are you the teacher?  You look like you know what you’re looking for.”  Ha!  I hardly ever know what I’m doing…I tend to make it up as I go along!

T: ” I just know a little about it.  But, I’m  not the teacher. “  At this point, I knew I was trapped and there was no way I was going to get out of this section, much less this store, without talking to her.

And I felt guilty just as soon as I started thinking of how I could get away.  Because,  God has lain on my heart that I need to realize that the people He puts in my path are the ones He wants me to make a difference to.  Because, I may be the only witness they ever see or the only kindness they ever feel.  And, I have really tried to be mindful of that.  I was reminded of the promises I made.   And, I was ashamed of myself, because even though I was hungry and had a backache and crying feet, she was in a wheel chair.

WOMAN: ” Well, I know what I want to do, but I just can’t figure out how…see I got these stones and they came from my daughter.  She lives in NC,  ‘Cept she did manage to find time to come help me during these operations.  She shoulda stayed and took care of me longer, but she left, and me and Coy had to do it all.  If you can believe that!  She’ll call, but she don’t wanna be bothered really.  Coy’s mad at her.  But, she’s got 4 young’uns…what can she do?  Coy did allright…for an old man.”

T:  “What is it you are wanting to do with your stones?”  I really didn’t want to ask about her ‘operations’.

Woman:  “I got 6 of ’em and they is really pretty, too.  I wanna wrap ’em in wire like this.”  (she showed me a package that had a stone wrapped in silver wire)  And, I want to make me a necklace with 4 and then make earrings with 2 of them.  But how can I string them together?  They don’t have holes in them…and I don’t know how to connect them together.  It’s just a puzzle to me.”

T:  “You need to go up to the register and ask them about classes.  Maybe they have one for jewelry making.”

WOMAN:  “I done did that.  It was last week.  How do you like that?  I missed it.  MISSED IT BY ONE WEEK!  I was in the hospital having that surgery last week,  so I couldn’t make it.”

T:  “Wow, you were in the hospital last week and you’re out and about today?  You must be doing well.”

WOMAN:  “Honey, you just don’t know my husband, his name is Coy.  If he was taking care of you…you’d be getting away, too.”

T:  I laughed…“Well, most men are like that, I think.  They just don’t know what to do when someone is sick.”

WOMAN:  “Coy just gets in my way and makes it worse.  He wants to help, but he just ain’t got it in him!”

T:  “Well, it was nice of him to bring you here today.”

WOMAN:  “Hey, I been here since 9 this morning. (it was about 3 at that time)  I been up and down every aisle and looked at everything they got.  I don’t know what to do with it…but I know what they got!”

T:  “It’s a treat for me when I can take my time in a store and go up and down the aisles as slow or fast as I want.  I guess that’s the way you feel, too.”

WOMAN:  “Coy’s always got something for me to do, so I don’t get much time for myself.  He wants me right with him mostly.”

T:  Well, I hope you get your wire and beads fixed like you want.  Maybe you could take them to a jeweler and have them drilled.”

WOMAN:  “That would probably cost too much.  And, what if they broke them?  I’d be too upset.”

T: “I guess you’re right.  I think there is a way you can wrap the stones and make connecting links with wire, but I do not know how to do it.”

I wasn’t finding what I need, but spied it hanging further down the aisle…on the other side of her.  And, there was no getting past her.

T:  “Excuse me just a minute, ma’am.  I’m going to go around this next aisle and come around.  I need to see those jump rings down there.”

WOMAN:  “Ain’t no need for that.  I can drive this thing.  Give me a minute.”  And, she started shuffling her feet, turning with one hand on the wheel.  BAM! went the Mountain Dew…then BAM! went the oxygen.  (I thought to myself…“This oxygen tank’s gonna explode and I’ll be blown to smithereens and they’ll find pieces of us in paints, and some in jewelry, and some in wood and some in scrapbooking…”)  I offered to pick them up for her, but she said she could get them herself.  And she hoisted herself up and back in her chair and leaned back with all the strength she had.  She reached one and then the other.  One went next to her left hip and one next to her right.  Then she realized her oxygen cording was tangled through her legs and around her waist.

Again I offered to help, but she said she knew how to get it fixed, and she pulled out a pair of scissors and cut that oxygen cording right in two!  Well!  That’s one way!

T:  “Oh, my.  Now what will you do?  How will you get your oxygen?”  Now, I was having visions of her falling out of the chair, and gasping for breath.  I would not be able to do anything, because she didn’t have any cording.  And, she would lay there, helpless…and I would not be able to do anything but give her Mountain Dew!  “Maybe you should go ahead and give Coy a call to pick you up.”

WOMAN: ”  Oh, he’ll be here directly.  I just use this stuff when I get winded.  I’ll be fine…I got some more cord at home.”   I didn’t know if she had forgotten about letting me past her, because she began pulling beads off the shelves and matching them to each other.   “Now, these are just too pretty…don’t they look good together?”

T:  “Yes, they really do.” 

WOMAN:  ” I don’t know how much nothin’ costs here.  They ain’t no price tags nowhere.”

So, I showed her how the bags are color coded and where the prices were listed.

WOMAN:  “I’m still moveing outta the way.  Don’t think I forgot or nothin’.

T:  “That’s fine, take your time.  I’m in no hurry.”  And, I wasn’t anymore.  I had decided to let this encounter play out as it would, and see what bit of wisdom I would come away with.  I finally got to the jump rings.  And she was studying some things on the other side of the aisle.

T:  “Let me know if I can reach something for you, “  She thanked me…and the next time I turned around, she had shuffled on out of sight.  Thinking she was gone, I began to make my way to the checkout.  BAM!  I heard the oxygen hit the floor again.  I prayed to get out of that store in one piece!  Then, she came around the end of another aisle near the checkout…as if she had been waiting for me.

WOMAN:  “I just got to thinking about something my preacher said at church one time.  We are ‘sposed to be ready to talk to everyone we meet.  Cause sometimes God lets people get in our way just so we can talk to them.  You just never know when someone needs you for one thing or another.  I was just thinking about that.”

And, she went  shuffled on past me before I could answer her… down the aisle she was on and I went on to the checkout.  I was waiting in line behind 5 other customers and (like everywhere in this town) only one register was open and yet they had 4 of them!  But as I waited, what she said began tugging at me, and I wondered if there was something I had failed to notice in my hurry.  I wondered if she needed something else and I hadn’t seen it.

I left my place in line and went to look for her where I last saw her.  She wasn’t there.  I looked around that area and didn’t see her anywhere.  She couldn’t have gotten far.  I went down the end aisles looking up each one as I passed.  I could not possible over look her…so I went to the other side of the store.  I could not find her anywhere.  I thought of the restroom, but there was a sign on the door: ‘closed for cleaning’.  I thought maybe she did go to the classroom they have in store, so I checked there.  I didn’t even know what I would say to her if I found her.  I didn’t even really know why I was looking for her.  She wasn’t in the classroom.

And, I never found her.  I asked the one clerk at the register if a lady in a wheelchair had gone by.  She said she hadn’t seen ‘nothin’ but people and more people coming up to this register!’  I don’t know where she went.  I got a sinking feeling in my stomach.  I was kind to her.   What had I missed?  Or did I miss anything at all?  I was kind to her and tried to help her.  But, did she sense my hurry or disinterest?

It is hard to resign yourself to the fact that you may have missed out on an opportunity that God had planned specifically for you.  I don’t know what else I could have or should have done…but I hope and pray that I don’t forget this experience.  We can say we care about people all we want to, but words without actions mean nothing.  I hope I helped her in some small way.  Maybe she just needed someone one to notice her.  I did.  And, I won’t soon forget her.