The situation seemed absurd. I was taking the items I needed off the shelf at the supermarket, when I felt a trolley bumping into me, hitting me in the leg. I felt a stabbing pain but I managed not to cry out. I had a look around to see what was happening.
A woman with a little boy in her arms was angrily staring at me, without a trace of regret or apology. There was certainly enough room for her to go by me without bumping into me but, between the cell phone and the screaming baby, the carriage and the box she was dropping, it was in some way understandable that such an accident could have happened.
There and then I responded with words that weren’t exactly polite and let her go by. Only that things don’t always go as you would suppose they would: I turned into another aisle and we crossed paths again: “You again?” she said to me in a tone that was anything but friendly.
“Oh, yeah, me again! I’m shopping just like you; maybe we’ll see each other again… Wouldn’t it be better to finish your telephone conversation and do one thing at a time?” At that point she really lost it – big time! She suddenly felt the right to launch comments and insults towards complete strangers like me, and so forth. No one was spared.
Just to make things worse the little one began to shout, the cell phone fell to the ground and the box fell and emptied its contents all over the floor. It was too much for the woman who ended up sitting on the floor in tears. Without hesitation I began to gather her things and calm the little boy, by trying to distract him with a set of keys I had in my pocket. In the end the little one began to laugh, and the lady calmed down.
Naturally, shoppers, sale clerks and all kinds of other people drew near to see what all the chaos was about, but finding that things had calmed down, they walked away and left us alone. Who knows what they were thinking!
The fact is that I helped the woman to stand up and I asked her if she still had to buy many things. She answered by showing me a shopping list she was holding in her hand. I asked her to wait there while I went to buy the things she was still missing. Of course, I did have to change some items two or three times before finding the right brand but, in the end, I did it.
Once all the items on the shopping list were in the carriage, the woman looked at me with her big eyes and spoke timidly: “Thank you, and forgive me for acting the way I did before. I don’t know which way to turn. My husband lost his job and we don’t know how we’re going to make it to the end of the month. It feels like the world is falling down around us. So I’ve become angry and aggressive.” I obviously didn’t have an immediate solution, but it came to me spontaneously to tell her: “Look, I don’t have an answer, but what I can do is pray for you and your husband, asking that he can find a job.” She looked at me a bit surprised and answered: “I’m not able to believe in God, but, anyway… thank you!”
In the days that followed I prayed frequently and intensely for that family. One morning, I met the woman again at the supermarket. She saw me from afar and came up to me: “Imagine, against all odds, my husband was able to get an interview with a company and, yes, they hired him! It’s not the ideal position, but it’s permanent with a reasonable salary. Could it be because of your promise to pray for us? When my husband told me I immediately thought of you, of your prayers. Thank you so much! Could it be that God does exist?”
“I firmly believe so and hope that one day you’ll get to meet him!” I told her.
We said goodbye and each of us went her own way. A sudden gratitude began to fill my heart and a prayer to God that one day she would get to meet him too.
From: Kerber, Urs. La vida se hace camino, (Buenos Aires, Ciudad Nueva, 2016), 16-17.