The week the trial was over I remember slipping into a deep depression. All the weight of my emotions—I had pictured would be lifted—still settled deep inside. The fears that haunted me had not ceased. That miracle rooftop moment of healing I had craved, still had not come. I was still hurting; I was still broken. It didn’t make sense. Rob had been sentenced—shouldn’t I have felt some sort of instant relief?
It was time to be back on my normal routine. I was walking kids to school and packing lunches. I was scrubbing toilets and folding laundry. I was doing all of the normal mom things I had always done, but instead of feeling a sense of freedom from the past—I was grieving the reality that my burdens did not feel lighter.
Early one morning—I believe it was a Monday—I loaded my car with kids, dropped the four big kids off at school and headed to the grocery store. I dreaded being in public. As I drove tears fell down my face and the cloud of gloom—I thought had been bad—steadily grew worse.
By the time we pulled up to the grocery store I was a mess. I didn’t want to be seen in public; I did not want to have another stranger walk up to me and ask how I felt about Rob’s sentence. I didn’t want to get out of the car. I said a small prayer as I turned off the ignition. I whispered in my mind, “Heavenly Father . . . I can’t kick this darkness. What is wrong with me? It is over . . . and I can’t let it go. Today . . . I need help. Please send me . . . send me someone to help me. Please send me someone who can ease this burden. I am alone . . . I feel so alone. I need someone to help me. Please help me feel less alone, please send me . . . send me someone to ease my pain . . . send me someone to help me learn how to live normal life again—a friend—someone to help me remember how to keep going—help me find a purpose. Please send me someone.”
I wiped my tears, got the kids out of the car and we headed into the store. In my fog, Kaleeya, Tytus and I wandered the aisles without much order. They snacked on crackers and giggled with each other. I quietly grabbed things off the shelf and threw them in the cart.
Soon, we found ourselves in the bulk food section. I began filling bags and writing down the corresponding number on the ticket. From the corner of my eye I saw a woman standing in the aisle and staring into her cart. I turned my head towards her. Something felt wrong. I stared for a few seconds trying to piece together what she was doing. She didn’t move her gaze from her cart. Instantly I felt this strong urge to help her. The first thought that popped into my mind was to offer to pay for her groceries. Trying hard to mind my own business, I brushed the thought aside and pushed my cart around her and headed to the other end of the store.
We made our way to the dairy section and loaded the cart with milk and eggs. The nagging feeling again came over me and ushered me to go back and offer the woman some financial assistance. I battled with my thoughts and—like I had many times—I talked to myself . . . directly at myself. First of all Ashlee . . . you have enough of your own problems to deal with. You don’t need to worry about someone else’s burdens. You don’t even know what is wrong with her. What makes you think she isn’t going to be insulted by you offering her money? Besides, how many purchases do you need to make in the next few days for your own family? You are not going to embarrass this poor woman by making her feel like a beggar on the street. Just finish shopping and go home.
Again, I shrugged off the impression. But as I walked, I found my cart turning to the back of the store and again past the bulk section. She was still there—looking into her cart, and then back at the food in the bins. In a panic, I veered my cart down the baking aisle.
I was almost in tears. I silently prayed. Heavenly Father, what the heck is going on? I see this lady standing here in this grocery store and I am overwhelmed with this feeling that I need to help her buy food? I can’t do that . . . I won’t. First of all, she is going to think I am judging her. She is going to be embarrassed—I am going to make her feel like a charity case. She looks like a very hard working woman—I don’t want to insult her. Plus, Kaleeya needs a new winter coat. Tytus needs new shoes. Bailey and Bostyn need piano books, and Jordyn and Teage keep asking for new hats. We have plenty of things in our own life where our money needs to go. Why would I spend it for someone else? I am overwhelmed with my own burdens and trials . . . plus . . . I can’t embarrass this woman. I am just . . . not going to take this on today. I am going to mind my own business and go home.
I started to move my cart forward to walk away. My once clouded mind became full of a very clear plan. Get into your wallet and give her the money inside.
In humility, I stopped the cart. I was sure there was no money inside my wallet—I rarely had cash. As I opened my wallet—in a zipper I hardly ever used—I found a one hundred dollar bill. Tears filled my eyes as I remembered where it came from. After much healing in our relationship during the mediation (when we tried to mediate the murder trial), Emmett’s mom had sent a card with money to take the kids to a movie. I had thrown the money in my wallet, but used my credit card at the theater.
I stared down at the money in my hand. I guess Heaven had a plan for you little bill. I choked up as I squeezed it in my grip. I slowly pushed my cart toward the back of the store, with the money still tucked in my palm.
This money—and all that I have—isn’t really mine anyway . . . is it?
There she was—still in the same spot she had been for the last twenty minutes during my pity party rebellion. I pushed my cart alongside hers and stopped. I grabbed her arm and she turned and looked at me. I chocked out my words. I said, “I know you have no idea who I am . . . and I have no idea why I am doing this. I hope I do not offend you in anyway, but I . . . I just need to give you something. So from one stranger to another, this is for you.”
I opened my sweaty palm to reveal the money. She looked down and burst into tears. She spoke through her sobs, “How did you know? I have been standing here for a long time, trying to figure out how to pay for all these groceries. I have $12.00 in my bank account. How did you know, I needed help . . . I needed someone to help me. Thank you. You are an angel for me today.”
She threw her arms around me and continued to thank me as we embraced. My heart was so full I could feel Heaven surround us. We held each other for a few more words and sobbed together. She thanked me, and again asked how I knew.
I said, “Have you ever had one of those moments where Heavenly Father asked you to do something, and you almost thought He was crazy? The last twenty minutes I have been fighting the feeling to help you. But I couldn’t walk away. I do know this . . . His love for you was stronger than my pride. You are loved, and today I think He needed you to know that in a different way. Thank you for letting me be the one to help you. I hope you have a wonderful Holiday season.”
She hugged me again and we said goodbye.
I will probably never know her name. I have no idea what her story is. But that day, when I begged Heavenly Father to send someone to help me—He asked me to step outside of myself and help someone else who needed Him.
Maybe I was an answer to her prayer—I will never know for sure—but she was the answer to mine.
Everyone is hurting. Some days God sends us little angels to remind us that we are not alone; other days He sends us to be the angels—to help us understand the world revolves around so much more. While surrounded by another’s pain, it is easy to forget our own for a moment.
For years everyone around us had lifted me—finally He let me take my turn to carry some of the load.
To anyone who has ever felt alone . . . you are not. He is near, I can promise you. He has heard your pleas—sometimes for a temporary need, and other times for an answer on how to live again after one of life’s trials.
All of us—all of God’s children—are pleading for something. That day I was pleading for Him to send me someone. But “being that someone” reminded me of His love, not only for His daughter who needed Him . . . but for myself.
Be that someone. When you can’t remember why life is worth living—remind someone else all the reasons they should.
He can’t always send us exactly what we think we need . . . but His path is exactly where we need to be.
Heaven had a plan for that little one hundred dollar bill . . . and your Heavenly Father has a plan for you. Maybe you have been crumbled a few times; maybe you have been lost in a dark wallet for a while . . . but your worth is great to Him. He hasn’t forgotten where you have been left alone. He still remembers how you have hurt as you have waited for a break from the pain. Maybe you have been used; maybe someone has told you that you were not worth much. No matter how many times you have felt like you have paid for some one else’s happiness—or for someone else’s pain—you are still a one hundred dollar bill.
As prized as the day you were born, Heaven has a plan for you. Maybe He can’t always send someone to pull us out of the darkened day . . . but He sent His Son to earth to live and to die for us. That alone is enough for us to know how great our worth must be—that even our story can be made whole through Him. God didn’t just send someone—He sent THE One.
Maybe I thought I needed an angel that day—but being one brought me closer to Heaven than I had ever been.