A few weeks ago, a friend and I went to shop at Target in Altamonte Springs for home accessories for her new apartment.  It is the first apartment she has ever had that is all her own and I have really been enjoying using my interior design skills on something other than my own home.  She likes bold colors and contemporary graphics and yet is unsure of what goes with what and it has been fun.  We are very close and while she may not always know what she likes – she knows what she doesn’t like and she’s fun to shop with.  There aren’t a lot of people I enjoy shopping with – so I was looking forward to it, even though we had both had a long day at work and were hot and tired and a little sticky from the muggy Florida summer day.  We grabbed a bright red cart (love that Target carts always work so well – no squeaky wheels here!) and headed to grab a few groceries and then into the Target Home Decorating mecca.  The goal was decorator pillows to tie together a contemporary red chair and a comfortable light tan sofa.  I tossed my purse in the cart and – as always – she let me push…cause that’s how do it…no discussion – just teamwork for the task at hand.

Target was PACKED on this Saturday afternoon with families and other women with clearly the same goal…enhancing their home without spending fortune.  She wanted to look at sheets for her new bed and I was focused on pillows so we split from the center isle – me still with the cart and her with her purse over her shoulder.  I found one set of perfectly functional red pillows in a microsuede fabric – but nothing in black.  I was very disappointed.  She had not found what she was looking for in bedding so she joined me in the pillow aisle and agreed with my suggestion that we look elsewhere for the black pillows.  We left the pillow aisle – me still pushing the cart and headed to the garden center for some patio chairs for the balcony.

As we passed the bedding department a gorgeous black rectangular pillow with white geometric dots caught my eye and I sprinted to it and showed it to her gleefully.

“This is perfect for the red chair!” I gushed.

“Is there another one?” she asked doubtfully.

“You only need one!”  I replied confidently.  “It will tie the sofa and the chair and the curtains together perfectly.”  Her eyes widened and she smiled and she pictured it as I had.  We tossed it in the cart with the other two pillows and were again headed to the garden department.  We found the right patio chairs and headed towards the checkout.

As we stood in line, we chatted about how everything was coming together and as we started to life the patio chairs to the check out girl I saw that my purse was no longer in the cart.  In fact, neither were the groceries.  Someone had switched our carts!

My heart nearly stopped and there was a flurry of panic between the two of us as we were at first confused and then realized the seriousness of the situation.  She immediately fled to retrace our steps and I headed to the customer service desk to report that my purse had been stolen.  And then something happened so quickly that was beyond belief.

Within seconds after the customer service desk got on the radio it seemed there were Target employees everywhere.  They were stationed at the exit and one headed to the bathroom and another headed to the office to go over the surveillance footage.  They communicated via radio as if the store were under attack of someone had reported a child missing.  As I relayed the information about the items in the cart as well as the color and style of my purse – as well as the contents – I realized very quickly I was in serious trouble.  Not only were the usual keys, wallet with credit cards and iPhone, the work phone and my favorite lipstick that I had JUST BOUGHT – but I had just finished picking up the cash from the days sales and had stuck more than $1000 in the side pocket.  My life was flashing before my eyes.  As Tina rushed back to the front, pale and completely freaked out, I was thinking of how I was going to tell Michael.

There was no getting out of it.  I didn’t even have the keys to get in the truck, nor the AAA card to call a locksmith, nor ID to prove it was me in order to get a key.  Telling him I had just lost more than $1000 as well as all the other stuff we women carry around in our purses…well it was just not going to be pretty.  I briefly thought about the possibility of breaking into the condo, knocking him unconscious and buying a ticket to Seattle with HIS credit card but immediately disposed of that idea since I would have to buy TWO tickets because I sure couldn’t leave poor Tina behind to face his wrath.  And besides – I wouldn’t have the strength to do any of that since I would have to walk home and breaking into our condo is like breaking into Fort Knox.

And just as I was considering different ways to kill myself, a Target employee rolled my original cart up to the front of the store and the army of red polo shirts dispersed without so much as a whisper.  She asked me to make sure everything was there and then – after I definitely crossed a personal boundary by hugging her and thanking her profusely – she disappeared as quickly as she had come.  The clerk checked us out as if nothing had happened, simply smiling at our gratitude and disbelief that all was as if it had all been a bad dream.

Tina and I walked to the car – pushing the correct cart – and discussed the incident – trying to imagine why we had been so lucky.  What had we done to deserve this extremely good fortune?

Tina was the first to say it.

“Looks like God is looking out for us.”  she said.  “I guess there really is something to this living a clean life stuff.”

I said a silent prayer of thanks – and then said it aloud because it seemed like the right thing to do.  I know that God has been looking out for me my whole life, but the last few years had been tough.  I knew that doors were opening – but it seemed like I have been running into a lot of roadblocks in my quest to help the women I work with.  Housing remains a problem.  So do services for Sex Trafficking victims.  So does financial support.  So does volunteer support.

The Target Team taught me a lesson.  They worked together seamlessly.  No judgement.  No questions asked other than the questions needed to solve the problem.  They didn’t bicker about who got credit for the good deed.  They didn’t post their response on Facebook.  They just did the right thing and they have a grateful customer for life.

Thanks Altamonte Springs Target Team.  And Thank You God for having them there.  And Thanks for the life lessons I continue to try to learn.

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