Care a fig – in Jesus’ name

The sign above the packaged figs in the produce section of the grocery store read, $2.49 or three packages $2.25 each.

The elderly woman pushing the cart beside mine stared at the neatly arranged packages and shook her head. “I vant vun only. Vy for do I pay more for chust vun? Tree, I’m not buyink. I can’t pay.”  Her strong accent made me smile.

“I know. Seems crazy doesn’t it?” I didn’t like this giant store’s pricing policy either, but I dropped the three packages required for the discount into my cart. Still muttering, she rolled her nearly empty one away.

At the crowded checkouts, I noticed her again. One counter over, just ahead, fumbling to get her purchases into her few bags.

Suddenly recent positive impulses I’d had, then made flimsy excuse to ignore, flooded my thoughts:

The note I’d wished I’d written and didn’t, only to find out later how much of a difference it would have made in my friend’s life. The impulse I’d ignored to call someone, because I thought may take up too much time. The rainbow I’d missed forever because I wanted to finish the dishes. The child I didn’t make time to play with, the pot of soup I didn’t share….

My heart pounded. The elderly woman had hefted her bags and started for the door.

“That’s $87.65.” The clerk extended her hand in my direction. I stopped packing my groceries and reached for my wallet.

What if our good impulses just stopped? How many does one have to ignore before we just don’t hear them anymore? Suddenly I was afraid of myself, of what I’d become if I waited to find out.

I know people like that. People who don’t care a fig. People without a shred of charity or spontaneity. People who’ve gotten so practiced at stifling that small sharing voice that even their faces appear pinched. People who, before you even shake their hand, you know it’s cold.

I held up my finger. “Just a sec, please. I’ll be right back.” I grabbed one of my fig packages and started running, ignoring the dismayed customers in line behind me.

I must have frightened the lady, thundering up like that. Nestling the figs in one of her few bags, I whispered, “Here’s a present for you, love. Have a nice day.”

She froze. Then across her apple-doll face spread a smile so wide I suspected it met itself somewhere at the back of her head. “Got blessink you!” she sputtered.

Jesus was right when he said it’s more blessed to give than receive. I’m sure that woman forgot about me the moment her fig package was empty, but the little kindness that didn’t escape warms me still.

Care a fig. In Jesus’ name.

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