Just because your heart is beating, doesn’t mean you’re alive.
Trust me, I know. For years, I’d been trying to resuscitate this beating stone in my chest. I tried it all – drugs, sex, running away, even cutting. Yeah, messed up, I know, but sometimes you’d rather feel pain than feel nothing at all. Oh yeah, and God. That was a stretch for me, but I tried it. There was something there, but I just didn’t get it. Wasn’t real enough or something.
So, there I was. All my wandering landed me in the illustrious position of convenience store clerk. As much as I could hope for, I guess. But how do you find life spending 30 hours a week at Quik-Stop?
I felt like I was seeing things through those blasted security cameras – black and white, flat, distorted. Everyone looked the same. And they’re all just stereotypes. Examples of everything that’s wrong with people and the world in general. For instance, today:
Grumpy Old Man is here to buy his daily lottery ticket and small coffee. Every day, same time. And the same frown and grunt of disgust when he doesn’t win. Big surprise.
Three Aimless Teenagers are hanging out by the garbage can. The one old enough to buy cigarettes digs enough change out of his pocket for one more pack. How pathetic are their lives when they have no place better to hang out than here?
Snobby Businessman, whose phone never leaves his ear, grabs a newspaper and a pack of gum and throws them at me on the counter. He’s never once looked me in the eye.
And, of course, Frazzled Mom with Bratty Kids always shows up at some point. I would almost feel sorry for her if she didn’t always give in to their demanding whines and stuff them with more of this garbage “food” we sell.
So, it’s another typical day. At least, it was. I was in the corner, cleaning up a toppled display of crackers (thanks to the two bratsters) when I heard it. Someone screamed and then someone else and then, total silence. I inched around the shelving to see this manic-looking guy waving a gun at Chad, behind the register. When someone tried to run, he screamed, “nobody moves!” and shot into the ceiling, shattering a fluorescent light and showering glass slivers everywhere. The guy was a time bomb and we were at his mercy.
What happened next I can only describe as a revelation. From where I was, I could see the customers and the expressions on their faces. Fear, shock, regret and more fear. For the first time ever, I really looked at them. It was like color was oozing into my world and I could see them for who they really were:
A sad old man with no inheritance to leave his grandchildren.
Teenagers who never found a passion in life.
A too-busy businessman with too many regrets.
Children who may never grow up and a mother who failed to protect them.
The overused ( I thought) John 3:16 popped into my head. Suddenly, I had a clue about what it meant. God sees us like I was seeing these people – desperately in need of a Savior. All I could think was…wow…Wow! Now I get it. I whispered a prayer the only way I knew how – “Okay, God. I get it. I’ll take whatever You got.”
Looking at their faces again…I couldn’t let them go out like this.
Reaching over to the salsa shelf, I grabbed a jar and hurled it in the air. It crashed to the floor and when crazy gun guy turned, I lunged. Unfortunately, I wasn’t as fast as his peripheral vision. Before I could get to him, he swung his arm back around and fired. The heat from the bullet tore through my chest, crumpling me to the floor.
More screams, more chaos. The shooter took off outside. All my wonderful stereotypes scrambled to help me as best they could. Through momentary blackouts, I could see tears and hear “Call 911!” “Is he breathing?” “You’re gonna be okay!”. They really did try to help me. And I guess I helped them, too. It was the best day of my life.
As the light faded to black, the last thing I remember thinking, and knowing, was…just because your heart isn’t beating, doesn’t mean you’re not alive.
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