Salvation: A Tale of A Single Girl in the City

In the weeks leading up to Christmas, I took part in my blogger-friend Billy Coffey’s Ten Dollar Challenge. I set aside ten dollars and blessed someone with it—for no particular reason except that they needed it and God pressed my heart to give it.

 One of my favorite things about the season of Christmas is that it’s a time that seems to awaken the compassion and generosity in people. But it has always bothered me that people who are so soft-hearted and giving during that month aren’t always as soft-hearted and giving the other eleven months of the year.

Yesterday afternoon I sat on my bedroom floor and cleaned out my purse. Having traveled during December, it had become a sort of a wasteland for crumpled receipts, gum wrappers, and empty Mucinex blister-packs. And to my delight, in the maelstrom of paper and lint, I came across a ten dollar bill.

Yes! I can have lunch out one day this week!

I carefully folded the bill and put it in my “other” change purse—the one where I keep the credit card I never use, the library card to the library that I don’t live near anymore, and my almost-spent Pier 1 gift card. And I buried the “other” change purse near the bottom of my purse and promptly forgot about it.

About fifteen minutes before I got off work today, my brother called with a special request. “Can you pick up sandwiches at Subway on your way home?” I had to go across the bridge, into town, to fill up with gas anyway, so yes, I could pick up Subway.

It was cold—below freezing—when I pulled up to the pump. The sun had set, the temperatures were dropping, and the wind was blowing. And with the vicious cold, my mind was set on getting home. I pulled my debit card out of its pocket in my billfold and used it to pay for my gas. I stuck the card in my pocket and when I got across the street to Subway, I didn’t have to dig for my billfold again. I had my debit card at my fingertips as I stuck my car keys in my jacket pocket and got out of the car.

Walking up the sidewalk towards the door, my single-girl-surviving-alone-in-the-big-mean-city radar alerted me that there was a man lurking between me and the door. I slipped my hand into my pocket to grab my keys in case I needed them for a weapon. I’ve had more than one single girlfriend attacked while walking alone and I was once grabbed and harassed by a couple of young punks myself. I’m not paranoid, but I make a point of being aware of my surroundings. And my radar said, “Young, tall kid, dressed in dark clothes, loitering in a dim parking lot—could be trouble.” But when I got about six feet from him, the wind gusted and I felt it slice through my slacks. I saw this twenty-something guy shiver and sit on the curb. I hesitated. He sensed my hesitation and met my eyes and gave me a half smile.

“Ma’am.” He nodded.

I smiled in return and when he saw my smile, he pulled one hand out of his pocket and showed me a small handful of change.

“You got any change, ma’am? To buy a sandwich? This is all I’ve got.”

I felt the debit card in my pocket and shook my head.

“I’m sorry. I don’t carry cash.”

“I understand, ma’am. It’s pretty dangerous to carry cash.”

I smiled again and wished him good evening as I went inside. I walked away, but I couldn’t forget him. I patted down my pockets, wondering if just maybe there was something there I could give him, but there wasn’t. After I’d paid for my meal and walked to the door, I saw him still sitting on the curb, hunched against the chill. That’s when I remembered the ten dollar bill in my “other” change purse. In my car. In the bottom of my purse.

The skeptical, cautious radar-watching lady inside of me fled and I made a beeline out the door.

“Come on! I remembered something.”

And I walked this stranger to my car and turned my back on him as I dug in my purse. (Which, ladies and gentlemen, is NOT what you’re supposed to do in this circumstance. But God must’ve been watching out for me.) And I chattered while I dug.

“I cleaned out my purse. But I have a little something.”

“Yes, ma’am. You should see my Mama’s purse. It’s always a mess. And next time I see you in town, I’ll pay you back.”

And I turned around and handed him a ten dollar bill. He took it from my fingers and I could see his surprise. He had asked for spare change and had gotten a ten.

“Thank you, ma’am! I’ll pay you back.”

“No, it’s a gift. A late Christmas gift. God bless you.”

I sat in my car for a minute and got my things resettled in my purse, but when I went by the front of the Subway, I craned my neck. He hadn’t gone inside. He’d skirted the restaurant to return to the housing project behind it.

For less than a second, I felt frustration that maybe this guy had duped me for drug money or alcohol money. But as I drove away, watching him disappear in my rearview mirror, I was filled with a peace that God had given me that money to give to that young man for whatever he chooses to use it on. And for good measure, I spent the four minute drive home praying for that young man that whatever he chooses to do with the money, that God would woo him, persuade him, move him, and arrest him with the knowledge of the love of Jesus. That he would see that God has given us a gift—salvation through the blood of Jesus Christ. And He lets us choose what to do with it. And my prayer is that no matter how this young man uses the ten dollars that he would choose the gift of salvation.

About Sarah Salter


  1. Wonderful gesture, Sarah. You did your part… God is taking care of the rest! And in the future don’t forget… safety first! 😉

  2. Good job, Sarah. We can’t know why he didn’t buy the sandwich. Maybe in that direction was a grocery store, and he thought of a loaf of bread and package of lunch meat to eat from for a few days. We don’t know. I’d like to think that he thought of a way to stretch that ten a bit more than he could at Subway, and that he felt the love of Christ from your generosity.

  3. Sarah Salter says:

    Bridget, I’m normally a safety-first kind of girl. Traveling internationally has made me that way. I’m used to being in countries where thieves will walk past you with a razorblade and cut your purse strap right off your shoulder. And where you don’t wear rings because they wouldn’t hesitate to cut your finger off to take it if they had to. But I also refuse to live in paranoia. I remember what my evangelist-friend, John Hobbs says: “You can go anywhere and do anything as long as Jesus is holding your hand.”

    Helen, I hope that very same thing. That certainly would be wisdom on his part. Thanks for the encouragement! 🙂

  4. I gotta say that the redneck in me was sort of hoping for a throwdown with a set of keys, but I’m glad it turned out the other way. There’s a lot to be said for being a kind stranger, regardless of where that gift of love goes. You blessed him. That’s all that matters. Both to you and to God.

    Great post, Sarah.

  5. I’m so glad that you took a chance on this guy. I love this challenge, isn’t it awesome? I pray the man was blessed by your action and that he saw the face of Jesus that day.

  6. Sarah, that was a beautiful story. Especially the part about how you prayed for the young man. I’m glad you’re my friend 🙂

  7. You obeyed and no seed is ever sowed in vain. You give and trust God for the rest. What a great story, Sarah! I love how God works…

  8. Beautiful story, Sarah! You may have been entertaining an angel unaware, just as it speaks about in the Bible. I’m sure you made a huge impression on the young man, One he won’t soon forget. Thank you for answering the call. You’ve blessed the young man and all of your readers!

  9. Papa Bear says:

    I did not do the $10 challenge, but I was praying for a friend, David. He sent me a very disturbing email several days after Christmas and was so depressed and down trodden. He has been working hard at trying to find God at work in his life and has made some poor choices recently. I had not responded to his email because I really didn’t know what to say, but God had been dealing with me, so last night I prayed about how to respond to him. This morning he showed up at my office apologizing for dumping all the negative on me through the email. I was able to let him know God really does care for him and is concerned about him and his financial needs as well. The Lord told me to give him what I had in my pocket. I pulled out my wallet and peeled off the $10 bill and the $20 bill and gave it to him. At first he said he didn’t want to take it, the only reason he had come by was to apoligize and let me know he was sorry for the email. I told him I felt God had sent him to me this morning to help me know when God tells you to do something, you better do it and NOW! I also have asked our church to pray for him and I am praying for God to lead some our our people to email him with encouragement and also to help him financially. Thanks Sarah for reminding us that God uses us to help others. IT’S HIS MONEY ANYWAY, SO HOWEVER THEY GO OFF AND SPEND IT–GOD WILL DEAL WITH THEM IF THEY DON’T USE IT WISELY.

  10. Sarah Salter says:

    Jeff- Thanks! It’s great to hear from you and I appreciate your kind words!

    Papa Bear- I thought about your friend David while I was writing this… But those thoughts are a whole other blog post… Stay tuned for it! And I’m glad that he came to see you today. I think it’s evidence that God’s moving on his heart. We’ll just pray that he continues to allow God to speak to him.

    And Billy Coffey- Sorry to disappoint you about the key fight. I’ll make up for it by telling you another story, another time. 🙂

  11. As I read your post, Sarah, I was reminded of the scripture that says we should give to someone in need if we have it within our power to do so. Even more than the ten dollars, you prayed for that young man. Maybe God was waiting on the prayer and the money was just a means to get to the prayer. Isn’t it just like God to do something like that?

  12. Sarah Salter says:

    Oh, Sharon, I love that idea!! That God was waiting on the prayer and the money was just a means to get to the prayer… That’s awesome! Thanks!

  13. Sarah, I go by the rule that if I feel God prompting me to give, I give and then I don’t worry about what they are going to spend it on – I just try to be obedient.

    That was an awesome story and maybe he needed your prayers!

  14. I am sending you a message through facebook.

    Thank you for giving, even though most people wouldn’t have.

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