As a compulsive eater, I need to ask my Higher Power to guide every aspect of my life. The littlest thing can easily tip me off-balance. Lately, my home renovations resulted in impulsive online purchases. I’ve been asking God for help with curbing this behavior, and the other day I was presented with an opportunity to do so.
I was rushing to a supermarket to pick up a few items when I noticed a woman (let’s call her “Skye.”) pulling items out of a clothing-donation bin. With her dirty clothes and belongings packed up on her bike, she was clearly homeless. I was struck by how closely she was examining the items she was taking out of the donation box. She wanted quality and attractive items, just as anyone would.
God wanted me to step outside myself for once and spend a full hour saying “yes” to another person.
Despite my tight schedule, I whipped my car around to ask her what she needed and whether I could take her shopping. Together we spent an hour in the store, picking out clothes, food, and toiletries. She mostly bought the essentials: underwear, socks, toilet paper; but one item on clearance, a crocheted vest, made it into the cart. Skye obviously loved it.
I’ve thought a lot about that crocheted vest . . . if our roles were reversed, would I have picked out such an item? It certainly wasn’t a need; it wouldn’t keep her body covered or keep her warm. It was an accessory item. But this shopping trip was not about asking questions or casting judgments. In fact, it was an exercise in acceptance and tolerance as she shared with me some details of her life that surely contributed to her homelessness. God wanted me to step outside myself for once and spend a full hour saying “yes” to another person.
Because I used this as a charitable donation toward paying off some lingering debts (part of my Ninth Step), I did not put a cap on how much she could spend. The total was US$113. That’s what it took to purchase all the essentials Skye could think of. I spent more than that on groceries for my family last week.
Through this experience, I realized how often there is self-seeking in charity. Oftentimes, a little part of me wants recognition—a tax write-off, a thank-you gift. If I were to picture a perfect version of this scenario, it would have felt more like shopping with a sister or lifelong friend. I would have made a meaningful connection, shared laughter, and been showered with gratitude. Instead, I paid for Skye’s cart, said “Nice to meet you,” and went on my way, most likely never to see her again.
I’m grateful for the chance to do something for someone with no personal reward. But as much as it feels like it’s not about me, I still got something out of it in the end. Through this experience, I paid off some debt toward my Ninth Step, took action against my character defects, felt God working on my heart, and maintained my abstinence for one more glorious day.