My heart is a bit lighter these days, all because a stranger connected with me.
A few days before Christmas, I went to a local store searching for some new jeans. A helpful clerk named Alice was able to help me find some that fit well, and I even found a bonus purchase of a dress for half price.
We chatted about all things Christmas, and I went home with my purchases. I looked at the receipt and did a double take; the charge for the dress wasn’t anywhere to be found. I wanted to wear it to an up-coming party, but also knew I needed to return to the store and pay for it. I decided to just save the tag and bring it in with my receipt.
I wore the dress to one party, then another. The days slipped by and I kept procrastinating about returning to the store. I didn’t really want to go back.
Several years prior, I’d come in to the same store to return a still-tagged dress in the bag with my receipt. I was shocked when the manager loudly accused me of grabbing a second dress off the rack and trying to return it for profit. The memory caused me anxiety over possibly being wrongly accused again. Admittedly, my embarrassment was likely heightened because I really did shoplift at a Fred Meyer back in high school. I’ve struggled with forgiving myself all these years.
My procrastination about the dress came to a halt when I felt God firmly telling me Go Now. Chastened, I called the store to make sure Alice was working…maybe just a little hopeful she was off that day. Nope. She came on the line and I explained what happened and why I’d waited so long to return.
When I arrived, she was on the phone, and I explained to the eager clerk I needed to have Alice help me. After she hung up she came around the counter and asked “Are you Denise?” I nodded and she said she had to finish something and she’d be right with me. She stayed on the customer side of the counter and had a cashier ring up a sale for her. I thought it odd, but didn’t pay a lot of attention. I chatted briefly with another cashier and she told me the inventory was taking place tomorrow morning at 5:30. It didn’t escape my notice for God’s timing to not have the dress missing during inventory.
Alice came back round the counter and I handed her the dress tag and receipt. She rang it up and then said she was giving me an additional 15% off because of her appreciation. I was pleased and thought it was very generous. Paying $19.42 for a $42.00 dress was awesome enough, but then she surprised me even more.
The Gift of Connection
She said “I’m so sorry for what happened to you before in this store and I want to make it up to you.” She handed me a $20 gift card, which was what she’d been paying for while I waited earlier. After I thanked her, she explained “The same thing happened to me once and I know how you must have felt.” Click. There was a powerful connection for me. We both agreed about how humiliating it was to be wrongly accused of something, especially in public.
I left the store feeling elated. My heart was doing funny things and I realized I was grinning like a Cheshire cat. The connection with Alice was so unexpected and I felt deep gratitude for her generous and kind heart. I appreciate the gift card, but the truly lasting gift of the experience is somehow it’s giving me permission to forgive myself for the shoplifting I did more than 30 years ago.
I’m grateful for God showing me His plans, always full of interesting details, and so much better than mine. All I hoped for was to not get wrongly accused, and all the while He had a plan for connection and healing through a stranger.
How about you? Have you had something go much better than planned?