Standing in line at the Penney's checkout, I realized that I really needed to head to the restroom. I left Mark in charge of paying for our comforter and headed downstairs to the public restrooms. We agreed to meet at the escalator in a few minutes.
In the restroom, I was hurrying past the sinks when I heard someone call my name. "Kathy." I turned to face the only other person in the restroom, a young woman filling a baby bottle at the sink. She looked familiar, but I couldn't quite place her, a fact that must have been obvious from the look on my face, because she quickly filled me in. "It's me, Alice H------."**
Alice! I hadn't seen her in nearly 10 years. She was in one of my freshman English classes when she was 14, but I had known her for years before that. Her family had moved to Oregon City when she was little, and I had been friends with her mom. She and Katie were close friends with Sarah, Dorothy's daughter. They played together several times every week, all through elementary school.
But around freshman year, things began to go sour for Alice. She headed in the direction of other friends, other choices. Her school work slipped along with her attendance. About midway through her sophomore year, she slipped off my radar, although I heard from time to time that she was attending an alternative school, or in rehab, or back home again, or...
Oh, Alice. How I wished I could give that Book of Mormon to her, with her own testimony written inside the cover. Perhaps it might help her. But I had no idea how to get in contact with her.
I knew that Alice's parents had moved out of state, so I asked Dorothy the next time I saw her if she had their address. She did not. Dead end.
And then, for the next three years, I kept Alice's Book of Mormon on my dresser. I didn't know what else to do with it. To give it away seemed like I would be giving up on that sweet young girl in my memory. Hanging on to it seemed kind of futile, but there it stayed. Other items often piled up on top of it, but then I would clean off my dresser, and there it would be, still, waiting.
I washed my hands quickly and hurried out of the Penney's restroom. Alice had promised to wait for me. Just outside the door, she was pushing a stroller with her sweet 9-month-old daughter, Scarlett. Alice told me that she has been clean and sober for nearly a year and a half, and that her daughter has been what has kept her going.
"I have something for you," I told her. She looked at me, startled. "A Book of Mormon, with your own testimony in it." Her eyes opened a little wider. "I found it a couple of years ago on a bookshelf in my house. I have no idea how it got there, but I've been wanting to give it to you ever since I found it. It's a home, sitting on my dresser."
Alice gave me her phone number. She said that she has been on the verge of coming back to Church. "Not for anyone else," she said, "but for me." A tiny spark of testimony. A perfect time to be reminded that God knows her and loves her. She lives in Portland, and I will mail the book to her this week, or drop it off at her home on my way to class on Thursday. One of the sentences in the testimony is, "I know that Heavenly Father knows who you are, and He loves you."
I ask you, what does it take for Heavenly Father to make this happen? The Book of Mormon landed on my bookshelf who-knows-when-or-how, and then it sat there for years. Then I found it three years ago, and felt prompted to hang on to it. Then Mark and I went to the mall on Friday night, which we rarely do. I drank enough water at dinner so that I needed to find the restroom right then, rather than wait until we had paid for the comforter.
And that's just on my end of things. I have no idea what was required for Alice to be there at that particular place and time.
But there we were, both of us. It wasn't a coincidence. It was a sweet, sweet experience of God's love and blessing in our lives, and the ways He helps us find our ways back to Him. I stand before you now, a reluctant missionary at best, all amazed at the love that flows into our lives.
**Not her real name.