Skip to main content

I don’t normally get emotional at the Dollar Tree. I mean, the prices are great, but I usually don’t get choked up about it.

I was getting into my car, and parked beside me—crooked—was a white Civic. A elderly woman got out. She walked around the car slowly.

She was carrying an oxygen tank with those damn tubes coming out of her nose–the ones that tell everyone “doctors are keeping me alive.”

She was about 5’4″, white-haired, hunched over, clearly having trouble, but stubborn, independent, determined, and entirely alert.

She reminded me of my mom, Ingrid.

“Do you need some help?”

“Well….I’m just wondering if I need to pull further in.”

“Nah, you’re fine. A little crooked, but that’s OK.”

“You think so?… Which way are you headed?”

“Nowhere in particular.”

“Could you lend me your arm and walk me to the Dollar Tree?”


“My mom used to have an oxygen tank.”

“Oh. How does she do with it?”

“She passed away a few years ago. She lived alone and I always wondered if people were helping her when they saw she needed it.”

“I live alone, too. I get a lot of help. I go to mass everyday. People help me and they have an elevator.”

“Where do you go to mass?”

“St. Stan’s.”

“….What level are you set at?”

“Pretty high. 3.”

“Oh that’s not so bad. My mom was like an 8, I think. Well…here we are.  Do you want a shopping cart to hold on to while you’re walking?”dscn2155

‘Yes. They help a lot….Thank you. Have a good year.”

I wondered whose mother this was and whether she will see 2013.

A brief moment—talking to and holding the arm of a woman who reminded me so much of my mom.

It’s the week between Christmas and my birthday. Maybe I’m subconsciously more alert to such things. I’ll bet that had something to do with it.

I might not have noticed her next week—which would have been a shame.

Pete Enns, Ph.D.

Peter Enns (Ph.D., Harvard University) is Abram S. Clemens professor of biblical studies at Eastern University in St. Davids, Pennsylvania. He has written numerous books, including The Bible Tells Me So, The Sin of Certainty, and How the Bible Actually Works. Tweets at @peteenns.