“And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.” ~Matthew 10:42
I love it when God shows up in the small stuff, right when I’m about to be overwhelmed and fall to pieces.
Yesterday, I took L to the library – only the fourth time we’ve gone since moving here. We just haven’t settled into a weekly library rhythm like the one we had in Virginia; the library here is smaller (although shiny-new and well-stocked), and we have to drive there whereas we used to stop at our old one during our nightly walk. But I’ve been determined to put some better, more root-establishing habits in place, and for both of us, the library is usually a joy.
However, one of my struggles seems to be making promises that are then challenging to keep on schedule, which can be a joy-stealer. On Sundays, the library is only open from 1 p.m. to 5 pm., so yesterday morning, I promised L we would go right after lunch, and she could nap afterward. Bad idea. Our morning errands (school shopping in order to take advantage of Memphis’s tax-free weekend) took longer than planned, as errands always do. We got home late, ate lunch late. I could see my kiddo was starting to fade a little, and yet I knew I couldn’t delay the trip until after her nap. She would have a full-on meltdown. She’d been checking off activities all morning, with the end goal being our jaunt to the library.
So off we went, already an hour late for nap. We spent a happy hour picking out books, but by the end, L’s tiredness was morphing into fussiness, and when I tried to browse for a few things for myself, she broke into a full-on whine. Other people started to look at us. I gave up, and we headed to the check-out counter.
The cranky-looking lady at the counter unsmilingly began to scan our pile of picture books as I dug in my wallet for my library card and fended off L’s whining request to sit on the counter and “help.” I knew her “help” was not going to be welcomed by the martinet who was waiting on us (unlike the always-cheerful librarians in Virginia, who patiently allowed L to sit on the counter and hand them books one at a time, then rewarded her with a sticker). Finally locating the library card, I handed it over. Cranky Lady scanned it, then turned to me imperiously.
“You have $2.71 in fines on your account,” she said.
Ahh, yes. I remembered. The product of a lone book that had languished at our house without me realizing it during our Spring Break trip to Florida. I’d only discovered the mistake upon our return home – dropping it off at the book return slot had been my last visit to the library.
I pulled out my debit card. Cranky Lady gazed at me derisively.
“We only take cash,” she said.
“Okay, well, I don’t think I have any change on me,” I said innocently. “Can I pay it online when I get home?”
“Our policy is that your account cannot have more than $2.00 in fines on it. You have to pay at least $0.71, or I can’t allow you to check out any books.”
Great. I began to sweat. I knew there wasn’t any change in my purse, and I knew a line of people waiting to check out was beginning to form behind us. L, starting to sense that something was going very wrong, began to whine louder, wrapping her arms around my leg. I dug into my purse anyway, hoping to find a forgotten handful of coins. To no avail.
“I’m sorry,” I said to Cranky Lady. “I really don’t have any change. We just spent an hour picking out these books. Is there any way I can just take them and pay the fine when I get home?” Inwardly, I willed her to see me for what I was – a very tired, very pregnant mom who didn’t want to learn she had just wasted an hour looking for picture books she wasn’t going to be able to check out after all; a very tired, very pregnant mom with a three-year-old who wasn’t going to understand or handle such a disappointment with any kind of grace; a very tired, very pregnant mom who wasn’t intentionally trying to subvert the system and get away with not spending $0.71. I felt like Meg Ryan in the Thanksgiving grocery store scene in You’ve Got Mail, but worse (add a clinging, whining three-year-old).
Cranky Lady just looked at me, not speaking. There wasn’t a single glimmer of sympathy in her.
“Okay,” I said. “I might have some change in my car. Can you at least hold these for me while I go look?” It was around 105 degrees out, and my car was parked at the far end of the lot; the last thing I felt like doing was dragging L out there to scrounge for change and back again – possibly fruitlessly. But it was my last option.
Cranky Lady pursed her lips. “I suppose…” she began.
At that moment, as good as Tom Hanks himself, the woman in line behind me stepped forward.
“Did I hear you say she needs some change?” she asked Cranky Lady as she pulled out her wallet. “How much?”
Tears filled my eyes as I mumbled my thanks.
She turned to me and laid a hand on my arm, smiling in sympathy.
“I’ve got this,” she said. “I’m a teacher and a mom. I understand. You’re not walking out of here without these books.”
As Cranky Lady grudgingly scanned our pile, my rescuer was motioned over to the next check-out. By the time we headed for the doors, loaded down with our books, she was gone.
I cried all the way home. Not just because of the way we’d been treated (both the good and the bad), but because God had sent me a tiny shot of hope, delivered through His emissary’s kindness – the gift of a mere $0.71. Because the truth is, I’m still not settled in here. I’m still homesick. I still only have one friend. Glimpses of Jesus in the everyday have been rare. But today, when I most needed a cup of cold water, when I most needed Him, He was right there.
God is in the big stuff, yes. But he’s also in the small stuff, the library books and the grocery shopping and the phone calls that come at just the right moment. And sometimes, the small stuff is what we need most from Him.
Photo credit: Lisa Murray. License: Creative Commons 2.0.