second chances

The Wednesday before Christmas I was on the road to Costco needing a ham, champagne and patience. I skipped the driveway to the store and drove on toward a cafe, toward a treat for myself. I deserved it and they had a drive-up so OBaby would be none the wiser. Then, brake lights.

A few blocks from the store but not yet to my destination, there she was.

Pushing a wire personal cart through the snowslop on the side of the road. As far on the side of the road as the terrain would allow. The sidewalk must not have been clear because no one would choose to walk along 4 lanes of traffic if they had the option.

She was older. And far from steady on her feet walking along packed snow.

Cars moved left to keep moving toward their Christmas errands, food, gifts, patience. I moved left. And then I heard it. I dreaded hearing it, I kind of knew I would hear it but I hushed the thought and filled my mind with to-dos.


Pull over and help her.

Crap. There it was, and I had heard it. No pretending I hadn’t.

But the traffic confusion. But OBaby in the back. But she’s probably just going right there. But she probably has far to go and my destinations are right here. But it would be awkward. But she’d probably say no anyway. (And finally…)

But we’re too far past her now.

4 more blocks, wait in line, medium Chai tea, pay, thanks and merry Christmas!

Allison, maybe she’s still there. Turn around if she is.

OK! OK! If she is still along the side of the road I will U-turn at the next signal and offer to help her. Sigh, feel conflicted, sip my $4 hot drink and adjust the air temperature control.

She wasn’t there. I looked hard. Traffic was flowing fine in the opposite direction, no signs of an older woman unsteady with her groceries (or possessions?) out in front of her.

Now come the truly conflicted feelings. Missed opportunity. Selfish. Unwilling. Unkind. Disobedient.

I sit in that place for a while, eventually feeling Grace but not having yet forgiven myself. Then I find a parking spot and it’s off to get ham, champagne, and patience. Next time, I tell myself. Next time.

Ham, champagne, Christmas, January, early February now.

Costco bound, this time alone and for milk, eggs, shredded cheese, apples, graham crackers. I decide that I deserve a treat. On past the store to the drive-up cafe. Alone time and I am already feeling more decompressed.

Brake lights.

There she is. Pushing her cart, snowslop, 4 lanes of traffic.

And the cars are moving left. My heart leaps.

Let’s do this.

I put on my hazards and I don’t get left. I pull over several yards ahead of her and get out. “Are you headed somewhere? Can I help you get there?”

Her name is Deb and she’s going only about a mile away and she wants to pay me. “You certainly cannot pay me, don’t be silly. Here, let me open the back and I’ll lift in your cart.”

The whole ride to her retired living apartment complex up the road (how often does she walk this route, I wonder?), she tells me that she wants to pay me and that she wishes her children were as helpful as me. She raised them, you know. But they’re busy now. They come, they do, but not often enough for grocery trips. She would really like to pay me, would I take a check? She could run up to her apartment and grab cash if I’d wait.

“Deb, please don’t worry about it. I’m just glad you’ll get there safe and warm.” I pull up to the¬†entrance, open the back and lift out the cart. One last denial of any sort of repayment, a warm hug and I am on my way toward milk, eggs, shredded cheese, apples and graham crackers.

But mostly, I’m on my way toward growing, learning.

And I am thankful for second chances.

{photo credit}

46 Responses to “second chances”

  1. Mo

    I’m all watery eyed over here.
    Good for you for going back the first time. Good for you for helping someone in need.
    I don’t know how many times I have been in a situation like that and have hesitated and missed an oppourtunity to do good. I no longer hesitate. Giving up a seat on a busy bus/sub way, someone dropping their gloves in a store or parking lot, someone leaving their keys in a church pew. Forget the great feeling it gives you, you just helped someone that needed it and truly appreciated you stopping and helping them; that is what matters. Ok, the happy heart and rested soul do feel nice; they are a great bonus! Good job!

  2. Sarah Johnson

    Totally had tears! Thank you for convicting me to stop and look for the opportunities to be Jesus to those around me.

  3. Lindsay N.

    So powerful! I’m on the verge of tears after reading this. The world needs more good, helpful people like you. What an inspiration! Thank you for this post – and for helping that woman.

  4. Kate

    Good for you, both that you can find the Grace from your first encounter, and also that you were given a second chance. I’ve had many of those moments, the ones where you wish you were deaf to the call, but when it’s done and over, the only thought you have is that you would never want it any other way. What a blessing to Deb, and to you. Thanks for sharing this.

  5. Charlotte

    I love it that you write about things like this. It made me all sniffly and now I want to go help someone too.

  6. Karey

    I loved this. Just Tuesday I had one of those whispers, and I obeyed (!) but immediately after obeying I felt like what I did didn’t make a difference. The person I felt like I was supposed to just “show up and see” wasn’t even home (I left a note) and I just sort of thought, “What was the point of that?” Whoops. I immediatly heard the whisper again, “Karey, maybe it’s not even about *them*, maybe it’s about *you*.” I don’t know what it meant to her when she found my note, but I know what it meant for me. Just like you, for me it meant learning, listening, and letting God lead.

  7. ellie

    o did i get teary or what! that was beautiful & amazing. & inspiring. you made that lady’s day, you made her week. such tiny things can mean so much to someone. this is one of my favorite posts from you, EVER. (& i love every one of your posts quite a lot. :))

  8. kim

    Perfect. I’m always afraid when presented with that kind of situation. I’ve heard the voice . . . and well, been afraid. This has inspired me to listen and NOT be afraid. So, thank you. What a wonderful thing to share.

  9. darcie

    O! This is so awesome!
    It gave me goosebumps…
    She has children…yet she still has to walk in *this* – what a great thing you did for her…
    If only the rest of the world was so kind…

    Do unto others…


  10. jen @ a little barefoot blog

    oh I know that regret well. Of driving by the person in need, making the decision to help when it’s already too late. I’m so glad you got another opportunity to help Deb. The world needs more people like you.

  11. Tessa

    Thank you for sharing this. I hear that voice often and use those same excuses. I only hope that the next time the opportunity is presented to me, I will shut off the excuses and just listen to what I am being told and remember that in the end His opinion is the only one that matters.

  12. Megan

    Hi Allison, (Did I spell your name right? Sorry if I didn’t!)

    I just recently found your blog and began following. The first post I read was the one about everyday Mommy failures, where at the end you said you had, “a father who has forgiven me, even when I haven’t forgiven myself yet” and I cried tears of recognition. That’s me, too.

    Anyway, I loved this post and wanted to officially de-lurk and introduce myself. I, too, have been disobedient in that way… to that inner voice that you know you’ll hear.. and I go through the same guilt when I ignore it. Thank you for letting the Lord use you to show how He is glorified when we are obedient to His voice. :)

  13. Maegan

    A powerful story … bought tears to my eyes. You are so caring and kind. What a humbling blessing to help that sweet woman.


  14. Amanda

    Beautiful! So often I ignore the prompting of the Spirit, thinking I know better. But it’s so incredible to see what God will do when we lay down our pride and allow Him to work through us. :) Praying for the faith and courage to listen and obey. (Amazing how we’re learning the same lessons as our children sometimes, isn’t it?) :)

  15. ann @ mylifeasprose


    you’ve got me choked up on this one. thank you so much for sharing this. i am guilty of ignoring that still small voice. so glad you got to meet deb and help her out :)


  16. Angie

    Thank you. Thank you for reminding me that it’s not okay to just pass by those in need. I hope the next time I come across someone in need I can do what you did instead of just sliding my eyes to the side.

  17. Katie Colter

    This post speaks right to my heart. Thank you. I have been dealing with this very thought for a little while now. If I were to see someone on the side of the road, would I stop and help them? What runs through my mind are the thoughts of, could they be a psycho? Could they hurt me? It’s sometimes too easy for us to block off that powerful, yet silent voice inside our hearts. But when we listen, we are blessed. I always think of this verse:

    Matthew 25:41-45
    Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least among you, you did not do for me.’

    I don’t want Him to say that to me. That fuels my want to do good for those around me.

  18. D

    How many times have I made excuses and tuned that voice out? Thank God for second, third, forth… chances!

  19. Heather S.

    Thank you so much for sharing this. Brought me to tears. I hope to have the courage to do the same as you someday.


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