A Short Story
By Josh Adkison KTIA Intern Iowa
It suddenly struck me that I was starving. I looked at the clock on my Chromebook.11:24 AM.
I am a bit of a later lunch taker on a normal basis, so the fact that I even had a desire to eat that early wasn’t typical. But I was hungry and I had permission to go on break at anytime. I packed up my notes I was working on for the radio show that afternoon, stuck my head in my boss’s door to tell him I would be back in a half hour, and took the creaking, twenty year old elevator down six floors to the main level of Merle Hay Mall in Urbandale, Iowa. I really wanted to eat at Chick-fil-A (which was located across the street), but there was snow and I was wearing my dad’s leather shoes. Plus, I wasn’t in the mood to polish leather that night when I got home.
So, with visions of chicken sandwiches and lemonade dancing before my eyes, I turned and headed to the other side of the mall toward Panda Express. It wasn’t a long walk, but the effort made me hungrier. It also wasn’t encouraging that upon arrival I saw a pretty long line. I looked up at the menu and tried to decide if the wait was worth orange chicken. (I was also mentally calculating if I could get across the street to Chick-fil-A before I could get my food here.) I decided I was better off waiting here.
As I mulled over the menu, a group of really loud mexican construction workers stepped into line. I quickly decided to make my move before someone else made me suffer longer from starvation, and hopped into the line. They call it “fast food” for a reason, and before I had a chance to say, “My pleasure to serve you” I was standing in the front of the food line before a very exasperated and haggard Panda Express employee.
“For here or to go?” When she spoke, the phrase sounded more automated then personal, like she had just said it for the thousandth time.
“For here.” Wait, what? My reply startled me, I seriously meant to say “to go”. But I felt bad about changing it now, because the employee had already started scooping rice into a white styrofoam box. Whatever. I picked out orange chicken, grilled teriyaki beef, and a bunch of rice mixed with some kind of vegetable I couldn’t identify. I paid with cash and grabbed a water on the way to a corner booth facing the cash register.
I was about half way through the rice and “mystery veggies” when I happened to glance up at the Panda Express counter. I immediately was intrigued. Standing in front of the counter talking to the Panda Express employee was a middle-aged women with a
little girl. The first thing that caught my attention was how tired and sad the women looked and how poorly they both were dressed. As I watched, the women held up a crinkled bill. I was pretty far away, but I was able to hear enough of the conversation to figure out that the only money the women had to pay with was a faded one hundred dollar bill. It was her pay-check for the previous week.
The employee shook her head. No they couldn’t process that large of a bill. They weren’t allowed. Do you have a card? The women shook her head and glanced down at the food she had just bought. Then, without a word, she set the bag on the counter. The employee shrugged uncomfortably and looked back at the line accumulating behind the woman and girl.
At this moment, I felt a weight in my heart and I knew that I had to go up to the counter. There have only been a couple of times in my life where I have explicitly felt God’s Presence, but this was one of them. I don’t even recall standing from my chair.
“Wait!” I hurried up to the women and the girl, who were turning to leave. “Can you hang on for a second?” I turned to the Panda Express employee, “What’s seems to be the problem?”
“She cannot pay with that.” The employee said in broken and heavily accented English. She nodded at the bill that was still in the women’s hand. “We cannot take.”
I glanced at the bag on the counter and reached for my wallet. “I’ll take care of it. How much.”
I pulled out a ten dollar bill and handed it to the employee. The women looked dumbfounded, “No, no. I can’t let you do that.” It was the first thing that she said to me since I had walked up. I looked at the women and girl in turn, “Please, I just want to bless you.” I felt sick to my stomach. No, I can’t say only that. What can I say? That statement wasn’t enough. God told me to do this, He wants her to know it’s from Him. Love. God loves her. The words flashed through my mind.
The women looked at me earnestly, “Do you work at the mall? I can pay you back.” She was trying. “Really, I can.”
“No.” I shook my head. “I feel like God wanted you to know today that He loves you.” I turned to the girl, “and your daughter.” I looked back at the women. Tears were running down her cheeks.
What? She was crying! Over an $8.24 chinese meal in a low income part of Des Moines.
The women shook her head, “You have no idea how much this means to me.” She wiped her eyes. “You have no idea.”
I nodded and smiled at all three of them. The haggard Panda Express employee, the poorly dressed little girl, and the crying mother. “Enjoy the rest of your day.”
As I walked back towards the office on the sixth floor of the Merle Hay Tower, I felt different. After I obeyed God and gave a few dollars to a nameless poor women I didn’t even know, I felt more joy and happiness then I have ever had after receiving anything. My heart was full with the satisfaction at doing God’s will – even in such a small and insignificant way. People give for many different reasons. Some people give because they think that God will repay them with actual earthly wealth. They call it the “Prosperity Gospel”. That day I realized that I too believe in a kind of “Prosperity Gospel”. I felt entirely repaid. Getting money takes work. It takes sacrifice.
So, OK, I’m out a couple bucks. Who cares. God gave something much more. I think I’ve finally learned how God must have felt after gave the greatest gift of all – His Son. That’s important. That’s real love. If God can give so it hurts, I for sure can. I walked back into my office on the sixth floor of the Merle Hay Tower. I sat in the same uncomfortable, wooden chair and looked at the same blank, white wall. Everything was just as I had left it thirty minutes before. But I felt different. I knew why though. I always have. God blesses a cheerful giver. He can use anything and anyone to make an impact. God wants my obedience, but He also wants yours. Listen to Him. Believe me, the feeling is the best you’ll ever have. Give something for Him, no matter how small. As for me, I will be giving more in the future. Giving more than $8.24.
What about you?
January 9th, 2018,
Truth FM 99.3 KTIA Des Moines