To the Stranger Who Bought My Daughter a Dress:

On Monday, just before my day intersected with yours in the aisle of the second-hand store on 87th street, I was remembering how families claw each other apart with words and silences and shatter hearts like glass; how grandmas and grandpas, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters demand and take but give nothing in return.

This is what I was thinking when Little E gasped and squealed from her perch in the shopping cart, “Princess dress, mommy! Princess dress!” and pointed to the lone girl-gown dangling from a rack of floor-length satin.

“It’s my dress, mommy! I want to wear it!”

My daughter’s dimples pressed deep, doe-eyes pleading—

So I grabbed the dress down, unzipped white chiffon, and plopped it over her t-shirt and shorts. She sighed, “It’s so beeeaauutiful! I need to dance!”

I wiggled her out of the cart, set her free on the polished cement floor, and she twirled down the middle of the aisle, arms ballerina-high, blue tennis shoes blurring grey.IMG_2314

“Look boys!” she giggled.IMG_2328 IMG_2331

The “Boys,” roused from their shopping stupor to cheer her on, “Awww. You are so pretty! Good job, E!”IMG_2438

“Look at her, Mom. She loves that dress! You gotta buy it for her!” big brother said.IMG_2355

E twirled up and down and sideways until a white haired lady (that’s you!) turned the corner with her shopping cart and stopped short, gazing at E over brown bifocals.

“E! I called, “Stop dancing for a minute so this lady can get by you.”

But you laughed light, “Oh no. Let her dance. Life is too short. Let her dance” and turned your cart around.

Life is too short. Just let her dance.IMG_2319_2So she danced some more, and then I carried that dress to the counter. You stood at the register next to me buying a frame and others things. When I handed the dress to the red-haired cashier, she said, “You do realize that’s not our usual two-dollar price, right? We charge $$$$$’s for those kinds of dresses.”

“Oh . . . . I’ll put it back then!” I said. “That’s a bit much for a play dress.”

But you spoke up from the other side of the counter, “I want to buy that dress for the little girl.”

I turned and looked you in the eye, wondering why a white-haired stranger would buy my little girl a dress.

You read the question in my eyes and explained, “I don’t have any grandchildren. I’d love to buy her that dress, if you’ll let me.”

I nodded my head and the tears flooded fast. I couldn’t stop them. I didn’t try. The cashier looked down and fumbled around. When she handed me the dress in a bag, she mumbled, “That sure was nice, what that lady did.” I nodded, afraid that if I spoke your kindness I’d crumble under the weight of its beauty.

But then you turned to walk out the door, and I couldn’t let you go without a word, so with little E hanging off one hip, I reached across the counter to grab your shoulder, and pulled you close saying, “Thank you. You’ll never know what this means. She doesn’t get much grandma-spoiling.”

“Well then, we were the perfect match!” Your eyes crinkled as you smiled and cupped E’s cheeks in your hands, “You just keep on dancing little one.” Then you turned and walked out the door.

As we drove home the Boys wondered why you were so kind, thought for sure you must love Jesus.

I don’t know if you love Jesus, but on that Monday in the second-had shop, God spoke through you–startling me with his closeness, reminding me he’s a good Father who delights in giving gifts to his sons and daughters.

He faithfully gives beauty instead of ashes, a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.

So, dear lady who bought my daughter a dancing dress—your kindness led me out of sadness into worship—dancing—before the Giver-of-all-good-things.

With all my heart—Thank you.

Becca B.


Psalm 30: 11-12

You turned my wailing into dancing;
you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
12 that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent.

 Lord my God, I will praise you forever.

IMG_2473 IMG_2475 IMG_2476

Reflection Questions

How and when are you tempted to forget that God is good? That he delights in giving gifts to his children? Do difficult family relationships or financial troubles or loss or_____________ cloud your vision and keep you from seeing all he has done and is doing? What would it look like to turn to him in those moments instead of fall into despair? You can begin with this simple prayer: “Lord, help me to see you!”

2 thoughts on “To the Stranger Who Bought My Daughter a Dress:

  1. shilocain says:

    Darling friend, you leave me in tears. I’m so thankful for this moment of true grace. It helps me in a new place to know God is making me a family of His creation. I love you!


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