She was on the phone telling whomever it was that she couldn’t get the medicine and she’d be on her way home. I knew this irritation. If there’s one thing I hate in my life, it’s fool’s errands. It drives me crazy when I go out and the dry cleaning isn’t ready, the prescription can’t be filled, the store is out of whatever it is I need, there isn’t a time slot for my car, or I get home and I get a call, it’s time to go back to wherever it is I just came from visiting. I’d spent the day being thwarted in errands.
After a back-to-school night, I’d rushed into the CVS to get my husband’s prescription before going home. The line inside ran four deep. I’d have to wait. Impatient, I picked up some protein shakes for my son and a Diet Coke for myself and mentally planned out dinner. A woman left the line after learning the prescription she needed would cost a dollar fifty-five. My blood froze. A dollar fifty-five was all she needed and here I was planning to indulge my caffeine addiction for the same amount of money. A teacher I work with had earlier asked me for change for a five, so I grabbed the bill still crumpled in my pocket and ran after her.
I didn’t want her to have a fool’s errand. Not for a dollar and fifty-five cents. Her face lit up like Christmas, like joy unbounded. She announced to the man on the phone, “God is so good. This is how God works.” She immediately added, “I’ll give you back the change.” I didn’t want the change. I couldn’t imagine asking for it back and waved her off. Just that morning, I’d read Saint John Chrysostom’s words: “Not to share our own wealth with the poor is theft from the poor and deprivation of their means of life; we do not possess our own wealth, but theirs.” I owed her this dollar fifty-five. She’d already overpaid me with the smile. It was the best deal in the CVS.
How big that amount was to her, how little to me. It was reminder to me of how much we don’t know, of the crosses each of us carry. Going back to the car with the medicines for my own home, I thought about all the need in this world, all the need unknown. How many others are out there in want of a mere dollar and fifty-five cents? Or the want of five minutes’ time of friendship? How many are out there who need, whom we can fix in an instant if only we listened and acted in the moment? Who can say? These were the sorts of needs that required not a big charity or a star-studded concert or a pretty ribbon to raise awareness; these were the sorts of needs that go unheard unless we recognize when the Holy Spirit taps our shoulders to act, even if only to spare a buck-fifty-five.
That evening, watching Wonder Woman with my husband, Wonder Woman becomes overwhelmed. Everywhere we look, there is need. It can make one despair. It’s an easy trap. As Captain Trevor says, “We can’t save everyone.” I felt his grim attempt to argue for a pragmatic approach to the trials and suffering of the world. It resonated until Wonder Woman says, “It’s what I’m going to do.” We aren’t called to be charging on the front of the war holding a shield. We’re called to pay attention in our everyday lives, and be ready to offer up the pittance our neighbor needs. It doesn't have to be galactic. Most of it will be little. It is the least we can do. It is however, necessary, if we want to serve in Heaven, to start serving now.