I hate to admit it, but just as the radio said, “The Powerball jackpot is at $500 million dollars.” I saw a gas station and thought, “God, you know I’ll tithe on this. …”
I was a few minutes early for pickup at the school, so I pulled into the gas station and went inside.
It had been years since I had bought one of these in Florida, so I began reading the back of the form when a customer at the counter said: “Sir, could you please let me have a dollar?”
Great. I’d heard that before.
“Sure,” I said, handing her a $1 bill and immediately realizing this was different.
Next to the register was a big pile of cash. I didn’t know how much until she spoke.
She took the dollar and said,“Thank you so much. I got laid off last week, and I’m trying to pay my bill but now they tell me it’s not $386 … it’s $387.”
Having done my part, I nodded politely and readied the little golf pencil to bubble $500 million into my pockets when I heard the cashier say: “… and 10 cents.”
“10 cents? Really? Can’t you just let that go?” she begged.
But my fingers were already reaching for the two nickels I knew were in my left pocket, and while she was pleading with the cashier, I reached over her shoulder and put them in her unsuspecting hand.
She suddenly stopped negotiating and stared at the coins like they were the Hope Diamond. Her eyes began to water as she looked at me while handing them to the cashier.
I lowered my head and went back to scratching with the golf pencil, but then there was a hand on my shoulder.
“God bless you, sir,” she sniffed as she headed to the parking lot. “You don’t know what this means to me.”
I left my half-completed ticket at the kiosk and followed her outside, digging for any remaining cash as I went. She turned around at her car door and stared at me and the $8 in my hand.
“You need this more than I do,” I said, handing it to her.
Suddenly her tears began to flow along with a story of illness and bills and her recent layoff and the fuel light that had come on right before she pulled into this station.
And before I knew it, I was hugging a stranger in a Citgo parking lot and praying in her ear that — no matter how dark this valley seemed — God would be with her, that His rod and staff would comfort her, and God would lead her into greener pastures and beside still waters, and that God would restore her soul.
And as I walked back to my car she said, “The Lord is gonna bless you!”
I slid behind the wheel and knew she was right.
Sure, I was off by about $499 million. But I had just won the lottery.
And I hadn’t even bought a ticket.
Dr. Steve Cothran lives in Newnan and has been a Baptist youth pastor for over 30 years.