[Editor’s note: The following piece, by occasional columnist Heather Burke Cody of north Georgia, invites us to pay attention to “soul nudges,” which I might call nudges of the Spirit. It has been edited for length.]

I was thrift shopping for dorm stuff. The cashier appeared to be one of the most unhappy people ever. I was six people deep in the line and it seemed like she got more and more exasperated with each passing customer. She was especially incensed when one of my unmarked items needed a price check. It sent this poor woman toppling right over the edge and I bore the brunt of her fall.

But as she rang up my items, I felt a little tingle in my spirit. A soul nudge. I tried to bargain with Jesus and told him that the extra little bit of cash in the back side of my wallet was not meant for her. It surely should go to someone sweeter and kinder, more deserving, or at least appreciative maybe. Not someone downright mean and angry.

But God did not budge. Nor did the tingle. So I paid my bill and reluctantly found the backside of my wallet. I slipped her some cash as she handed me my receipt.

She was caught off-guard by the gesture. She gripped the folded bill with one hand and paused. Then slid her mask down with the other hand. Her loud, stern voice got quiet when she whispered a single word:  “Why?” To which I answered two words back: “Soul nudge.”

There was another pause.  A brief reckoning of sorts. When she grabbed my hand and held on, I was the one caught off-guard. “Today’s my 75th birthday and ain’t nobody called me. Not my sister. Not none of my kids. None these people here. Nobody. Nothing. I don’t think I can remember ever being so sad. Ain’t nobody even remember it’s my birthday.”

She bit her bottom lip when her eyes threatened to leak. And I noticed a deep hurt and sweet humility under the figurative and physical mask she wore underneath her chin.

The birthday news had made its way beside me and two more customers connected. Talk is cheap and words seem too few—until they aren’t. There was a small chorus of chirping happy birthdays. She just stood there, patting her heart and taking it all in. The words penetrated. Anger dissipated. Hope manifested.

We just never know what someone else may be navigating or battling. Things are not always as they seem. We are living in an upside down world right now. We may be tempted to return hatefulness with hate. To retaliate. To alienate. To trade out judgment for grace. But there’s a better way.

I thought I needed dorm stuff today. Turns out I needed reminding––maybe you do too? Let’s be slow to judge. And quick to obey. Trust the Holy Spirit to lead the way.

Rene Heard
Author: Rene Heard