by Father Mark Goldasich
It was the most expensive bottle of hand sanitizer ever. And that’s odd, because it was actually on sale.
Here’s the deal: For years now, my parish has set up “angel trees,” to sponsor needy families for Christmas. Due to the pandemic, all of the “angels” this year represented gift cards in various amounts, rather than other presents.
After the weekend Masses, there were two angels left, so I decided to take care of them. Since a friend’s birthday was coming up, I headed to Target to buy a card and pick up those gift cards. This was a major decision because I’ve refrained from shopping in person since the pandemic started.
Once masked up, I entered the store and saw a kiosk with gift cards. I grabbed two then headed to the greeting card section. I quickly picked out a birthday card and set off for the checkout counter. Along the way, though, my impulse buying gene kicked in . . . and that was to be my undoing. I didn’t need hand sanitizer, but since it was by the checkout counter — and on sale! — I picked up a bottle.
The clerk rang up my purchases. After getting my change, I scooped up the sack and left. My mind was already anticipating my next stop: carryout at Jose Peppers.
When I got home, I grabbed the Target bag and my food. After eating, I went to get the hand sanitizer. I reached into the bag and, surprise, that was the only thing in there — no gift cards, no birthday card!
Certain they’d just dropped out of the sack, I checked for them in the car. Nada! Then, it occurred to me that the clerk probably put the birthday card and the gift cards in a separate bag that I’d not seen or picked up.
I was livid. The two main things I’d “risked my life for” I didn’t have. And what I did have, the hand sanitizer, I didn’t really need and hadn’t intended to buy. Even though I knew it was a lost cause, I called the store to see if some good-hearted person had turned in the missing items. No such luck. And the dishonesty of the human race made me even madder.
As I was stomping around my house, two things struck me. First, I knew I had only myself and my inattentiveness to blame for this fiasco. Secondly, the often-repeated words of Pope Francis came to mind: Our God is a “God of surprises.”
This caused me to re-imagine my “loss.” Those gift cards would not go to waste: They’d be used — not by the people I’d intended them for, but by someone. And, just suppose that the person behind me at Target was saying a silent prayer, lamenting that it was someone’s birthday and they couldn’t afford a card or gift for them. Imagine their wonder in opening up their Target bag to find not just what they prayed for, but two gift cards!
That thought made me laugh. And maybe, come Judgment Day, the Lord will commend me for being his unwitting — and unwilling — Advent angel in Target that day.
Surprise, surprise, surprise!