Tonight I took a late trip to the grocery store after realizing the refrigerator was looking rather bare. One of the worst enemies of my efforts to eat clean and continue to get in better shape is the occasional lack of good, healthy foods around the house. When a grocery trip becomes overdue by more than a day or two, those are the times I am most likely to find myself eating whatever is readily available. That means almost anything and everything I can find within the kitchen. It also means that the likelihood of me finding myself at the dreaded fast food drive-through window increases. I don’t want that to happen, so I headed to out to remedy the situation. The plan was to buy some chicken breasts to cook tomorrow and some fat free milk to use for protein shakes and such.
Bashas is much closer, but I found myself on the road headed toward Sprouts. “Their prices on larger packs of chicken are much better anyway,” my thoughts argued. I had $15 dollars in my wallet, a ten and a five. I rarely carry cash, but money is tight right now. With the prospect of auto-pay bills coming out of checking at any given time, I didn’t want to use the debit card tonight and run the risk of dipping below the dollar amount needed in checking to sufficiently cover the outgoing bills. So cash it was. An amazing lightning storm illuminated the cloud-streaked sky in front of me to the east. The radio remained off. Sometimes silence is the best soundtrack, even for a music fanatic such as myself.
I pulled into the Sprouts parking lot and parked the car. I headed toward the store, aiming for the middle set of double doors. While still at a bit of a distance, I saw a woman sitting on a bench in front of the store. She had a bright red shirt on, so I figured she was a Sprouts employee. As I got closer, she made eye contact and smiled at me. I smiled back.
“Sir, do you have two dollars to spare so I can catch the bus? I really need to get back to where I live,” she said. I realized she obviously didn’t work there. I scanned her face, reading her facial expressions. The software inside my head didn’t sound any alarm bells. “Actually, yeah, I do,” I replied. “You’re lucky. I don’t typically carry cash with me.” Keeping my eyes forward, I took the five dollar bill out. When I reached forward to hand it to her, my eyes read the writing on her shirt: “Church On The Street.”
For the uninitiated, Church On The Street works with Phoenix’s homeless and incarcerated. They assist those who have had a difficult or troubled past in getting their lives straightened out and aid in transitioning back into becoming a contributing member of society. Church On The Street works directly with the people who need help, assisting them with housing, clothing, food, education, job placement, etc.
“Hey, I used to work with a ministry that works with Church On The Street,” I said, motioning toward the logo on her shirt. “Do you live at the Dream Center?” I asked. “I do,” she said, “and I can’t miss curfew or I am going to be in trouble. That’s why I need to get a bus back as soon as possible. I was supposed to be back already, but my friend is really depressed and has been threatening suicide. I couldn’t just leave him alone, you know?” I nodded in agreement.
“Do you know Gator?” I asked. “Yes,” she said excitedly. “He just baptized me today!” I smiled. “My cousin Mickey used to do a prison ministry with Gator, leading church services for the inmates at some of the maximum security prisons here in the state,” I said. Just to show her I wasn’t kidding about this increasingly odd and amazing situation, I showed her entry at the top of the “G” section in my cell phone’s phonebook: “Gator.” She was rather surprised and grinned even bigger.
Her friend came up and she introduced me to him. He seemed kind of agitated. He was sweating profusely. I shook his hand, looked him in the eye, and smiled. My smile seemed to cause a bit of a shift in him. His posture changed. “He’s worked with Church On The Street before,” she said to her friend. “Oh, cool,” he said, now smiling with the other two of us. She thanked me several times for the money. I told her she was very welcome. I glanced back and forth between the two of them. “You two take care of each other. Get back safe. Have a good night. God bless.”
Good thing I went to Sprouts tonight instead of Bashas.
Their prices are better anyway. 😉