The loading dock of the Salvation Army was a little busy. I was boosting armloads of old pillows up to the worker who was stashing them into a rolling laundry bin. I was competing for his attention with another worker who was unloading a truck. A two-inch square, flat, white packet wrapped in clear cellophane fell from the worker’s hands, cartwheeled around on the asphalt a few times, and then came to rest at my feet. I picked it up—a pretty little pin–and handed it back to the man who told me it was mine for being so honest. I thanked him but protested his generosity. He insisted that I keep it. Then I tried to give it to the sweet, grandmotherly woman who was helping out on the other side of the truck, but she insisted that I keep it, too. Oh, my! It was brand new—it had never even been opened! It was a small, delicately filigreed, silver brooch studded with blue rhinestones—not exactly my style, but really beautiful, in a Walmart kind of way. I put it in my pocket, planning not to take it home with me; after all, I was here trying to divest myself of excess stuff, not accrete even more.
Ah, but the allure of treasures amid the trash beckoned me inside the store, and I gave it a once-over just in case I should see something I couldn’t live without. A cursory inventory convinced me that my life was full enough.
My mother always told me to keep my hands in plain sight, especially in a store, since you’d never want to appear sneaky and/or be suspected of stealing. Unconsciously observing my mother’s wise counsel, I’d forgotten all about the brooch nestled in my pocket.
Saying “Goodbye,” and “Thank you,” and “Have a nice day now,” to all the Ladies-in-Charge who might be bored enough to look up and see my eternally goofy grin, I stride towards the glass door. On the other side, there is an ungainly and unkempt-looking couple just about to enter the store. They seem to be homeless, but then again, bundled up against the cold with big, honking, misshapen overcoats and random, lint-covered woolen caps, scarves, and gloves, I figure that we all look slightly homeless, especially here at the Salvation Army, so who’s to say? The man, who is on crutches, very gallantly holds the door open for me. His blood shot, rheumy eyes twinkle with a sweetness that breaks my heart. “Hey! You be smilin’ at mah man?!!!,” My heart stops breaking and starts to seize up, like an old engine that’s just dripped its last drop of ancient oil. My goofy grin must still be posted on my silly billboard face! My eyes dart to my accuser and my head cautiously swivels in her direction. I look into her raptor-like eyes and I hear myself saying, “As a matter of fact, I was smiling at you!” I reach into my pocket to fish around for my car keys and pull out the brooch instead. I quickly add, “And because you have such a beautiful face, this is for you!” Before my unbelieving eyes, her scowling face morphs into a beatific visage of peace as she regards the brooch with its dazzling little blue rhinestones. She clasps my hand with such warmth and murmurs a heartfelt, “May God bless you!” We hug each other for a long moment, and I reply, “I think She already has.”