How Shopping At Target Taught Me Compassion Today

I tucked Tessa and Navy into their beds, kissed them good night, and closed the door behind me. I watched Aaron across the hall as he gently laid blankets across Lewis’s small 3 year old body and we met at the top of the stairs, greeting each other with a high-five. “Nice job! We had another great day,” I said. “Yeah,” he smiled. “They are great kids.” It was our fourth night babysitting the Stringham family but the first in a long time that I’d be on my knees at all hours of the night praying for a miracle.

The commotion of Sports Center buzzed through my ears as I slowly peeked open my eyes. I could feel that something was wrong. Aaron lay next to me wide awake with the remote firm in his grip. The clock on the night stand read 12:03 A.M. I leaned off the edge of the bed and unplugged my phone, swiped the unlock screen, and was frightened by the little number 4 on my messaging icon. Four unread messages. Something is wrong. 

“Hey Marlee.” Whitney wrote. “Did you see the text about Krystal?” My stomach immediately flipped. I pressed the back button, and opened the other unread thread between Whitney, Krystal, and myself. “This is Krystal’s sister. Krystal was in a car accident this evening and is a medically induced coma while her brain swelling and bleeding goes down. The accident was caused by a brain bleed and she blacked out and hit the freeway wall. We will keep you posted. Keep her in your prayers.”

Warm tears burned my cheeks. “Aaron!” I yelped, feeling the shiver in my voice. He turned off the TV. “What?” he asked with concern. “Krystal…she was in a car accident.” We held each other as I cried. We held each other as we prayed. We held each other as Aaron slept and I stared at the blank wall. Krystal is supposed to get married on Saturday, but instead she’s fighting to survive.

Aaron dropped me off at the Target doors and he parked with the windows down and radio on while I went inside to purchase a few items for Krystal’s bachelorette party we planned for Friday night. Even though she’s in the hospital, we are still celebrating her with bridal sashes, girly gifts, and lots and lots of ice cream. After picking out a few cute things for her honeymoon, I walked to the front of the store and stood in line at the self-checkout. Several people were ahead of me, but I patiently waited my turn. Finally, I stepped up to the register and scanned my pink Maybelline Baby Lips lip balm when the screen beeped at me: “Notify Manager. Login Needed.” I waved down the cashier who was stationed at self-checkout and she told me the receipt paper needed to be refilled. My patience was wearing thin, along with the handful of customers waiting behind me. The kind cashier reassured me, “Wait here. I’ll be quick!” She came back but struggled to get the register running. “It’s okay, ma’am. I’ll just head over to a different line. Thank you, though.” I was fifth in line at register 12 when the lady behind me asked me what I came to buy. “Oh, my best friend is getting married so we are having a bachelorette party for her tomorrow!” I told her. “How wonderful!” she replied. She picked up some Easter baskets in her cart. “I’m buying things for an Easter dinner with my family and treats for the grandkids. These pink mason jars are just the cutest!” “Oh, those are darling!” I said. “So when does your friend get married?” she asked. My shoulders slumped, “Well, it’s awful…” I began. “She was scheduled to get married this Saturday but on Monday night she was in a car accident.” “Oh honey, that is terrible! What happened?” I pulled out my phone to show her a picture and proceeded to tell her the circumstances. “Oh honey, I can’t even look at that!” she pulled away. “I am so sorry for you and your friend.” Tears swirled around in her eyes as she embraced me in the warmest hug. “The same thing happened to me when I was in my 20’s.” I couldn’t believe my ears. “You were? Oh my goodness!” “I was at a restaurant when I blacked out from a brain bleed. I was ambulanced to the hospital and when I woke up from my coma, my mom was at my feet, my dad was holding my hands, there were people all around me. I was in pain all over my body. I feel for your friend because I know exactly what she’s experiencing right now,” she explained. Of all the people in the world, what were the chances that I stood in line next to her — next to someone who could help me understand how to help my friend and know to some degree what she is going through? “Wow, I am sorry. I can’t imagine what that was like for you.” The line moved forward and the cashier began scanning my items. “I have some memory loss,” she told me, “but please, tell your friend you met a survivor. She has an incredible life still to live.” All I could think to say was, “She’s already been living it.” I reached into my purse to pull out my wallet but before I did the lady behind jumped in front of me. “I’m paying for your friend’s things, honey.” I was stunned! “What?!” “I feel for your friend. Please tell her she is in my prayers. I want to help her and this is a way I can.” She continued to hug me as we both cried in sadness for what had happened but gratitude for her survival and her continuing healing. “This will mean so much to her,” I said, brushing my cheeks with my sleeve. “Thank you so much. Can I buy you lunch or something?” I offered. “No, no. All I want is for you and your friends to celebrate her being a bride.” She hugged me one more time and wished me a Happy Easter.

Standing in the Target checkout line today was a wonderful moment for me. I met a woman who reminded me of genuine compassion and Christ-like love. I can’t wait to celebrate Krystal being a bride, even though the gift I give her will not be from me. It’s from someone she’s never met but who deeply cares for her and who taught me today how it’s important to serve others, even if those others are people you don’t know.

Always remember: “We can’t help everyone…but everyone can help someone.”

We love you Krystal and we are so grateful for our many years and memories of friendship! I can’t wait to see you bust out of that hospital joint.

best friends

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