I saw her behind me in the grocery store check out line, the girl who could have been me 12 years ago. Her tiny girl was perched in the seat of the shopping cart and looked much too small to be sitting up so steadily. Her protruding belly announced to all the world that her second child be arriving within the month. She looked tired and wrung out and sported a streak of cookie slime on her left shoulder.
I spoke to her briefly and she smiled with true joy even as her eyes looked too weary to stay open much longer. The girl was 10 months old and small for her age; the boy was due next month and big for his.
I could tell by the way her eyes kept darting from one item in her cart to another that she was nervously counting and re-counting the amount of money she would spend. She probably knew to the penny how much the total would be and was just reassuring herself that she wouldn't have to put anything back. She fidgeted and looked in her coupon envelope and rubbed the baby's back and then counted everything again.
I've often said that I wish I could go back and help the girl I was then, struggling to pay every bill and meet every deadline while also keeping my small ones fed. Then suddenly, here I was in the grocery store check out line staring at an earlier vision of myself. I mentally shook myself, paid for my groceries, wished her a good day and made to leave. She smiled at me, then apologized to the clerk as she began to count out pennies to pay for her milk.
I took two more steps and then could go no further. There was a $20 in my wallet that I had tucked back for a pedicure. A still, small voice reminded me that I really didn't need it. I thought of that $20 and could not take another step. I pulled it out, and folded it in half. I turned and walked back to this younger version of me and slid it into her hand.
"This belongs to you." I said. "God told me it was yours." Then I turned and walked away before she could thank me. I didn't need thanks. I just needed to sit for a moment and catch my breath.