Updated: Jun 23, 2019
It won’t be a surprise to most moms that my daily ensemble usually consists of leggings, a nursing tank, and a nice forgiving sweatshirt, complete with a messy bun on top (and also in my coffee cup)! That is literally me on the daily (ask my neighbors or any poor soul that has seen me in public - also wearing that right now).
The only time I get dressed - and by “dressed” I mean put on something other than leggings - is for Church, to teach, or leaders council (both of which have commenced for the Summer)! So on Mother’s Day when it was time for sweet Emma Jean and I to take a solo run to our favorite place (other than Disney Land - and only because we have never been there), something whispered to, for whatever reason, pull on a pair of jeans. I did leave on the nursing tank and kept my messy bun - I mean, it was Mother’s Day, after all.
As I was in Target picking out Pull Ups for Andy (thank you potty training), two kids in their twenties approached me (and I would be lying if I didn’t admit that mama bear was on instant alert). Let me pause for a moment; it’s hard to describe the following events because it was hard for me to process the whole experience.
In my mind, as I see two strangers walking up to my infant daughter and I, in the type of world we live in, by myself (not that I wouldn’t release the beast if anyone tried to ever hurt my child), I couldn’t help but play out a hundred different scenarios in my imagination (which is quite vivid and expansive)! In the 2.5 seconds it took for them to greet me, the only logical explanation my mind could concoct was that they probably needed help finding the right size diaper - a situation that has, in fact, happened before.
(And I feel it is imperative to note that we should ALWAYS be on guard whenever someone approaches us - I know I am - because you never, as my husband worried over me, want someone to try and distract you from your children. Unfortunately, we DO live in THAT kind of world.)
But back to the story; One kid was holding his cell phone with a picture pulled up on it, and the other politely (and a little nervously) pointed to the phone and said
“Hi mam, sorry to bother you, I know this is weird, but my name is Manuel Franco - that’s me (he pointed to an image on the phone)- and I was the Power Ball winner in Milwaukee and I wanted to give you this $200 Target gift card for Mother’s Day.”
WAHHHT?!?!?! Out of all the crazy scenarios I played out in my mind - THIS was the craziest. I think I said, “You're messing with me, right?” In fact, I am pretty sure I questioned him a couple times, not knowing who was more nervous!
Then he explained how he used to work at the Target near Milwaukee (in the grocery department) and how he’s staying out here because he had to leave his home after he won due to so many strangers approaching him (I found this so sad, but also humorously ironic - until I learned about the anonymity laws in Illinois and Wisconsin, but that is a whole other rabbit hole of thoughts that I’ll save for another time)!
Ok - let me be vulnerable and real for a moment. I do not by any means consider myself religious - but I do, indeed, have a relationship with Jesus. I attended a Bible College, have attended numerous studies, teach for our Community Bible Study children’s program. So it is hard to admit that I unfortunately and ashamedly don’t always see the world the way Jesus does - which is to say I was nothing short of hesitant And skeptical - and maybe that was how it was meant to be in this situation, because something that could only be the Holy Spirit, told me to accept the gift card graciously (also something that I am not prone to do - ask my friends how much I annoy them by refusing to accept help or gifts).
This kind stranger ended up actually thanking me! He said he tried to hand out gift cards to others but they refused, which isn’t that shocking. Again, we live in a world full of deceit and lies, which makes it hard to believe - let alone accept - an exceptional gesture such as this. Even so, I continued to thank him for his generosity. I was still not one hundred percent convinced I believed him; after all, I don’t watch TV - unless you count PBS Kids or the Lion King that is currently on repeat.
I had no idea there was a PowerBall winner, let alone what his name was or what he looked like. I honestly didn’t even remember his name as we were talking, which was what prefaced me to ask to take a photo with him - another aspect of God’s hand in this experience because that is SO out of character for me - but I, Nancy Drew, needed something to reference when I googled him. He didn’t hesitate or make me feel like I was crazy, but kindly agreed, and his cousin snapped the photo (now, seemingly seen around the country - more on that below).
We chatted for a moment, I thanked him again, and Emma and I were off to finish our list - which was hard to do after all that. As we strolled our way through the aisles it didn’t even occur to me to go and spend the card, and quite honestly, there was a family that came to mind who I believed could benefit from it much more than myself - not that it wouldn’t have been an amazing help. But I truly felt that it was the Holy Spirit who moved in me the moment I accepted the gift. I mean, it must have been. After all, $200 to spend at Target is like my ultimate dream (probably my husband’s dream for me, too)! If I could, I’d live there. Just kidding (sort of).
But I am always striving to live in obedience to what I feel I am being called to do. And gift the card to another family - whether they choose to use it or continue to pass it forward - is what I felt called to do.
Once we were home and I told Mike what happened he asked if I had used the card - I told him “no” and he, too, was skeptical. So I called the number on the back of the card and sure enough, the balance was $200!! I also googled “Milwaukee power ball winner” and saw the face of the sweet kid who blessed our day more than he could possibly know.
So, I’m sharing this because the world needs more Manuel Franco’s. We need to know that, even though the world is full of ugliness and hurt and pain and deceit - there are also those who are kind, and selfless, and good!
I think it is important to note, and a big reason I decided to write this (almost novel) here, is that I never in my wildest dreams (and I have quite the imagination) dared to think that my little post intended to share the joy of the day with family and friends, would turn into a viral post. Frankly. I think I am still processing. I personally love a sweet feel good story as much as the next person, but it’s a little different when it’s your story.
Something I don’t think I was ready for, nor do I ever think I will be ready for, was the cruel and perverted and cynical comments that were posted. I find it extremely ironic that something I intended for good could be taken as anything but by some people. I think it shows exactly why we’re drawn to stories like this. And while my only hope this entire time has been to encourage and inspire others, I also hope that Manuel himself feels encouraged for the good he did.
This may not have been a big deal to someone who now has hundreds of millions of dollars, but it’s truly priceless, and so precious to me! And I am so thankful that I choose to put on pants before we embarked on our now infamous Target adventure. Otherwise, I am not sure I would have wanted to be photographed in my sweatpants. I guess we will never know.
Manuel, thank you friend! May this inspire myself and others.
“It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Acts 20:35