by Samantha Retzlaff (Customer Service)
A few years ago during the Christmas Season, our Preacher reached out to the congregation, and asked for help filling the requests of families that had fallen on hard times. Naturally, without hesitation, our congregation rallied together very quickly to offer clothing, toys and gifts, as well as monetary donations needed for families who might otherwise have to do without during the holidays.
While knowing personally I wanted to help out as much as my family could, I knew our funds were limited. So I volunteered to purchase a few small needed items, but I also contacted the Preacher to let him know that I would be happy to run errands for the church since I was headed out the next day to complete my last minute holiday shopping. The Preacher happily accepted my offer and handed me a list of things that needed to be purchased using the monetary donations given by the congregation.
After receiving the list, I ventured off to College Station with my sister in tow in hopes to finish my last minute shopping and pick up the items on the Preacher’s list. As expected, the day started out very frantic when dropping off my 2 (unwilling to go) small toddlers at Grandma’s house, but I finally arrived at my sister’s house late as usual. Upon arriving in College Station, we found the streets and stores jam packed and I found myself growing more and more frustrated. I was frustrated with the lack of “satisfying” customer service, the large amounts of disrespectful shoppers, and the amount of “out of stock” items…that just so happened to be on my list.
After eventually finding all but 1 item, we went to what we thought was our last store of the day. Turns out that store didn’t have the item we needed so we went to another store that had the item in stock although we knew it would be at a more expensive price. But, at that point I was willing to pay almost anything just to be able to check that last item off of my list and head back home to the quiet and less busy streets of our small town.
Finally, we were headed for home. However, as I put the car in reverse to pull out of the parking lot, my sister yelled, “STOP!” I had no idea what she was yelling about nor did I want to hear her say that we needed to go to another dreaded store to get some random item we had forgotten. But, as it turned out, she happened to look in the side rear view mirror and saw a woman crawling on her hands and knees behind my car. I couldn’t believe it…I ALMOST RAN OVER THIS LADY! Out loud I found myself shouting, “What in the world is this woman doing? I just want to go home and now I have to deal with this!”
When I got out of the car to approach this woman, I found myself confronted with a situation I truly believe God put in front of me to make me realize that the frustrations I was feeling that day could not begin to compare with what this woman I found crawling on the ground was going through.
She was looking for something she had lost. She was in tears and so distraught. I asked her what was wrong and what she was looking for. She looked up at me with tears running down her face and frantically said, “I’ve lost my pin, the one in honor of him. I have to find it.” As I tried to figure out what it was she was talking about, I saw on her shirt that she had multiple lapel pins displaying yellow ribbons and military emblems. She was looking for one of the lapel pins that had fallen from her shirt. She told me that she wears the pins every day and that she must have lost this special one, the one that meant the most to her in the parking lot or at the last store she went to. She said she had been all over town retracing her steps trying to find the lapel pin. She looked at me and started crying even harder and said, “I have to find it, you don’t understand; he never came home!”
My heart sank. I thought to myself, how could I be so selfish? Worrying about finding all the items on my shopping list and complaining about the lack of customer service I received when this woman had obviously lost a loved one and would be without him this Christmas. I felt SO shallow! I got on my hands and knees and started crawling with her, looking for the lapel pin. After a few minutes the woman stood up and wiped the tears from her eyes. She said, “I guess it’s not here. I guess I really lost it. Thank you for your help, Thank you!” She said, “Maybe God is telling me it’s time to move on.”
Once again, I didn’t know what to do so I stood up and hugged her. I hugged her so tight I found my own eyes tearing up. I was so saddened by her story that I wanted to tell her that it was ok to grieve but still move on. I wanted to tell her that I understood what she was feeling, but I really didn’t. I had never lost a family member or close friend, or someone that was deployed overseas but never made it home. I wanted to tell her to lift up her pain and sorrow to the Lord and that he would comfort her. I wanted her to know that her lost loved one was with the Lord and that he would always be watching over her. But, even with all of these thoughts, I was at a loss for words…I just kept hugging her and I didn’t want to let go.
Finally, she looked at me and once again said, “Thank you.” I asked her if I could do anything and she said she was going to retrace her steps one more time. I wanted to offer to help her but before I knew it, she was walking away and getting into her car. I never even got her name! I got back into my car and broke down in tears while my sister stared at me with a confused look on her face. I told her what happened and her eyes began to water. At that moment, I found myself feeling so guilty because I was thanking God that I still had my loved ones, alive and here on Earth with me. I asked God for forgiveness for the way I had acted that day and vowed to remember to thank him daily for the loved ones in my life.
In writing this, I guess my prayer for the upcoming Holiday Season would be that this woman, the stranger that lost a her deployed loved one, the stranger I shared a hug with while she cried in my arms; I pray that she will always be surrounded by the love of her friends and family during this holiday season. I pray that she has found peace with God and that the memories of her loved one will live on in the heart of those he meant so much too. I also give thanks to the Lord above for the freedom our warriors have bestowed upon us and I ask that the good Lord continue to watch over the men and women in every branch of our military. Please keep them and their families out of harm’s way and bring them home safely.
For those who serve in the military and for the families left behind, may you find comfort in reading Psalm 91 and know that God will watch over you each and every day. May God bless you and yours this Holiday Season.
1 Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty
2 I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”
3 Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence.
4 He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
5 You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day,
6 nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday.
7 A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you.
8 You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked.
9 If you say, “The LORD is my refuge,” and you make the Most High your dwelling,
10 no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways;
12 they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent.
14 “Because he loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
15 He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.”