It was Last-Monday-of-the-Month-Half-Price Day at my favorite thrift store, a festivity I make every effort to attend. Of course, I’m not the only one in Atlanta who appreciates Judy Tenuta T-shirts for 50 cents and hand-tinted photographs of somebody else’s ancestors for a dollar. The parking lot is always full, and the aisles are cart to cart.
As I pulled up, I saw a circle of women standing in the lot. I learned that one of their children had been hit by a car as it backed up. The boy was sitting in the center of the group, apparently shaken but not injured.
As I got closer, I heard singing. The boy began to move his limbs along with the gospel melody, and after a few minutes, he stood and joined the singing.
I was so intrigued that I inadvertently moved into their circle, and, instead of challenging me by asking, “Who are you, and why are you butting in?” they continued swaying and singing. Finally, one of the women turned to me.
Resisting the urge to inquire whether a doctor was on the way, I asked, “Were you praying?”
“Yes. That’s my boy, and it was my friend who bumped into him. He wasn’t hit hard,” she said. “But maybe he’s hurt and doesn’t feel it yet, so this is what we do.”
“Are you healers?”
“Jesus is the healer,” she said. “We were reaching out because we might need divine help. You saw it yourself.”
She spread her arms and shouted, “Thank you, Jesus!”
With that, she and her son got into their car, the group dispersed, and I went inside.
So many people were scouting the clothing and examining the housewares that I couldn’t find an empty cart, so I started gathering treasures in my arms, and, finally overloaded, I headed to checkout.
A man who was completing his transaction at the register noticed my situation and motioned that I should take his cart. I gratefully dumped the cumbersome items into the cart and plowed back into the masses, where I jostled and snatched with the best of them. Then, tired and fulfilled, I paid and left.
I wheeled my bounty to my car and reached into my purse for my keys. I was in a hurry because I knew that there were at least a dozen people waiting for me to bring the cart back.
Oh, no! My car keys weren’t in the purse pocket where I always keep them. I methodically went through my entire handbag several times, removing each item and placing it on the hood of my car. No keys.
I pushed my full cart back to the store, maneuvered to the cashiers, and asked whether anyone had turned in a set of keys. No one had.
Two men were sitting on a bench in the vestibule of the store. They saw me exit, and they saw me return. These fellows are often in that strategic spot, waiting to help customers with heavy items. They came up to me when they realized something was amiss.
There were two reasons to assist me. First, I was holding on to a valuable shopping cart, and second, if they helped me, I would surely cross their palms with cash.
“What’s wrong?” one of them asked.
“I lost my keys, and I’ll never find them with this crowd and all the kids running around.”
“We’ll find ’em! We’re experts!” the other man declared. They instinctively began their search and-rescue by examining my cart.
“There they are!” the first man shouted. “They’re hanging on the wires under all your stuff. They probably fell in when you went to pay.”
The men escorted me to my car and helped me unload my purchases. Before they left, I offered a reward, but they wouldn’t take it.
“Just thank Jesus,” the second man said. “Thank Jesus that we were here!”
“Baruch Hashem!” I sighed as I drove off.