An Angel on Aisle 1

God has met me in some very interesting places. I’ve encountered Him at Target, seen Him dressed as Santa Claus, and chatted with Him over a chai latte at Dunkin Donuts. But today, He was waiting for me in the vestibule of Trader Joe’s.

My mom and I had headed to Trader Joe’s for my weekly grocery shopping. Recently, she’s been having some health struggles and we’ve decided it would be helpful for her to start spending the weekends with us. She’d never been to Trader Joe’s and I thought she might enjoy the Mom-and-Pop feel of this particular chain, so after dropping Trey off to his weekly carb-loading Trombone-Euphonium bonding bash at IHOP, we traipsed down the highway a few miles and parked right in front.

As we walked in to the store, Mom became a little confused with all the entering and exiting customers and, as I’ve grown accustomed to doing, I gently placed my hand beneath her elbow and guided her toward the right, helping her steer clear of displays and fully-loaded carts along the way. Suddenly, a woman with a young child in tow walked up to me, smiled, and very clearly said, “Thank you.”

And then she hugged me.

As she turned to walk away, she looked directly at me and said, “Me, too. I’m there, too. I know. And thank you.”

I quickly brushed away the tears and started gushing over the beautiful flowers and pumpkins lining the produce section. But my heart was pounding and my mind was reeling from the abrupt – but deeply affirming – encounter.

Thank you.

And although I’m tempted to brush her words aside because this is just something you do, this is the way family treats each other, this is how you care for an aging parent, I know that this time perhaps I shouldn’t. This time, I should acknowledge and accept her encouragement, tuck it away in that Blue Monday space in my psyche, for that moment when I need to know that what I’m doing matters. That the decisions I make on a moment-by-moment basis are right. That the sacrifices of my time, energy and resources are worth it.

Wandering through the produce section, my mother asked me, “Did you know that woman?”

Though I’d never seen her face before – and probably never will again – I’m pretty sure I know exactly Who that was.