Last night, after running a million places and doing a hundred different things during the day, I took Haley to Target for some consolation sushi. (Please note: I think sushi is icky, but she is of the opposing opinion.) Consolation because she'd received some disheartening news the day before: she didn't make it into the choir she wanted for next year. All her friends made it. (Please note: while I am not the mom who thinks her children deserve everything special and perform perfectly at everything they do, I am completely stunned by this news. My soul aches for her. I don't understand at all how we could arrive at this destination. I intend on calling her teacher when I can talk about it reasonably.) We talked and laughed and picked up a few other things, and then went to pay for our stuff.
The woman in front of us was buying lots of groceries, plus a little pink plastic gardening set for her daughter's third birthday. When all of her stuff was rung up, she paid with a $20 gift card, then had $100 and some change left over. She reached into her back pocket and discovered that the $100 bill she'd stored there was gone. Gone. That look came over her face: part panic, part embarrassment, part devastation. "Oh, I am in so much trouble!" she wailed. "That was my grocery money! What will I do?"
I started looking around the register and down the aisle behind us, hoping it had fluttered to the ground somewhere near. It hadn't, though. She piled her stuff off to the side and went wandering through the store, hoping for a miracle: that she'd dropped it in this store and not in the parking lot, that someone else hadn't picked it up and tucked it into their back pocket.
And I wished.
I wished that someone honest would find it and turn it in. More, I wished I were that woman at Target, the kind who could say "It's OK, I'll just get it for you" and then swipe my card and buy her groceries. The kind of woman to whom a hundred bucks is no big deal.
I wish I could have helped her.
Instead, I left the store, oddly, helped by her. I realized that while I'm not wealthy enough to buy her groceries, I am wealthy enough to buy my own. I have enough that if I were in her shoes, missing a $100 bill, I would be panicked and embarrassed but not devastated. I could recover. I could still feed my kids and buy a birthday present. I left the store with a renewed sense of the blessings in my life. Not the wealthiest; not able to swoop to the rescue. But I have enough to buy groceries and a few little extras, and that is enough.
Her plight also impacted Haley, who told me as we walked to the car that she felt better about the choir thing. "Who cares that I didn't make it?" she said. "My life could be so much worse than it is."
I took a deep breath of the cold spring night. I hugged her shoulders briefly. And we drove home, content.