Jo looks like a normal, everyday person. She’s unassuming–dressed in black and doesn’t wear a stitch of makeup. Her auburn hair is like waves of the ocean, rising and falling about her head. She wears a Dollar General apron around her neck and hips. A simple cross lies flat against her chest by a golden chain.
This lady’s got her own kind of story. I can see it in her eyes and in the outline of her face. Jo is a worker. A feeler. A helper. She’s a summer day of warmth in the middle of this cold winter season.
Jo’s been behind the counter trying to run a card for a customer for the past ten minutes. “It’s the second time he’s been here today. He walked here both times in the rain.” I’m not sure if she is talking to the small line of people waiting or to the person on the other end of the phone. Jo is kind with her words and the man remains hopeful.
He nods to those of us behind him as if to say sorry for the inconvenience. He’s careful not to make eye contact. The man shifts his weight, showcasing work pants that are too big and a belt that appears too small. His hands tell the story of hard work and tire grease.
Nobody can get his card to work. Jo apologizes as the man starts unloading the bag to see what he can afford with cash. As it turns out, he cannot afford much.
Wrinkled dollar bills and loose change fall on the counter like those raindrops from the gray sky outside the door. The man is nervous now and offers a quick glance behind him to see who might be staring at the scene. His face reddens and his eyes gaze down. Shoulders slump. His countenance turns logy. He reaches further into his empty pockets like hands might find hope in a hidden place somehow.
Jo notices. She senses the embarrassment. Feels the pain. And she does not hesitate. She reaches into the back pocket of her pants and pulls out a $5 bill. She does it with grace. With ease. With a quiet subtlety so as not to draw attention to her good deed and his monetary misfortune. She whispers words to him, which I cannot hear. But her actions are reverberating–bouncing off her humanity and landing forcefully– straight into the hearts of those of us nearby.
She bags his items as he counts the last bit of change and the cost of her kindness.
His eyes meet Jo’s. And they say unspoken words of what the human heart knows to be true: There is no fiscal value of love for one another.
He thanks Jo. Takes his bag. Adjusts his pants. And heads back into the weather.
The rain is falling harder as a gust of wind catches a tree by a long limb. The rain and the wind and the tree dance in the Dollar Store parking lot outside, while the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit join the cadence on the inside. ‘Tis the season, after all.
Hands do find hope in hidden places. And Jo really does look like a normal, everyday person.
Except for her wings, of course.