I don’t know if you remember my post I titled “Stranger, can you spare a pound?” If you don’t, the first part of that embarrassing story went like this:
I’ve just finished loading the groceries I bought into the back of my car and am walking the shopping cart (AKA “trolley”) back. Here in England, you have to put a pound coin in a slot in the cart, in order to get it unchained from the rest of the carts. You then get that pound coin back when you return the cart and chain it back to the other ones.
So I’m walking the cart back and thinking, “If someone needs this cart, I should just give it to them.” That is my sole thought as I walk the thing back. Maybe the person wouldn’t have the pound coin. (After all, I usually forget to bring one.) So right as I am going to return the cart, a woman walks up to me and says, “Is that a pound in there or a token?” Immediately, the thought I was having has left my head, as this stranger has approached me and asked me a question I only partially understand—I didn’t know you can put tokens in there. What are these tokens? How do you get them?
It turns out she doesn’t have the pound coin and offers to give me a pound in spare change. Without thinking, I say, “Sure, OK.” She gives me the coins and I give her the cart and walk back to my car.
As I am driving home I am talking to Jesus about it and am thinking, “Hey, wasn’t I thinking about someone needing my cart right before she approached me? Wouldn’t it have been a nice little lift for her day if a stranger had just given her the cart?” So I felt I blew it. In my defense, I was not feeling well. I was on the tail end of some nasty bug and had a foggy, hurting head. But I still felt really dumb and ashamed. I asked Jesus how I should feel and the sense I got back was that I should feel only the desire to learn (as opposed to guilt).
So based on that, I asked him to send me some sort of repeat of that experience, so that this time I could get it right.
Then, later that same day, I did get a repeat, and still wasn’t present enough to realize what was going on until later. So I asked for another repeat, and the next day a repeat did happen—only to Nicola, who, unlike me, got it right.
Then nothing happened, but I did keep asking for another version of this to come up so I could finally get it right.
Well, recently it actually happened. I was shopping again at the same place. I had finished and was walking my shopping cart back, thinking “OK, I’m ready, Jesus.” And sure enough, there was a little group of about four young people–I think three boys and a girl. They clearly wanted to go in and shop, but I could tell that they didn’t have the pound coin required to release one of the shopping carts.
Right before I reached them, one of the boys, having given up on getting a cart by honest means, whipped out his key chain or something metal and was about to try to jimmy the lock. I reached them at that exact moment and said, “You guys need a cart?” (forgetting, of course, to say “trolley”). With relief they said yes, I gave them my cart, and before I turned, the girl, who was probably more relieved than the boys that they didn’t have to jimmy the lock, said a very heartfelt thank you.
It was not a big deal, of course, but it did feel like a fitting ending to my little series of lesson repeats for the spiritually challenged. It was a nice ending, in that I not only got them the cart they needed but spared them from potentially damaging one.
And right or wrong, it did reinforce in me the idea that the situations we encounter really are carefully designed lessons for us, which are repeated until we get them right.