It was around 9:15pm. I was driving home from teaching for 5 hours. I was tired but my heart was full.

I didn’t have any quarters. As I approached the toll booth, I took the cashier lane farthest to the right because there was no line. 

“Good evening” The woman’s face was worn but not old and framed with tiny black ringlets pulled into a low ponytail. She tossed 50 cents into the bucket to her left. Her bright orange DOT polo wasn’t the best against her darker complexion. “Hi, how are you?” I asked and handed her the dollar bill. Her blue rubber gloved hand stretched out to give me my 50 cents. The gate opened and the little lighted sign flashed me a green Thank You.

“That is beautiful, what is it?” she asked gesturing to my necklace. “Oh, thank you. It’s a bird and it says free. I have to remind myself sometimes” I replied. “Where are you from?” Is that gate going to close? “Oh, I’m from here” “Is your family from here?” Her South American accent was thick but still understandableYes” Where is she going with this? I glanced at the gate again.

“Then why do you have to remind yourself that you’re free?” Wow, big question. How do I answer with a toll booth sound bite? “I just have to remind myself that I’m not defined by who other people say I am. That I’m not defined by my circumstances….” Do I add this part or not? “…But I’m free to live as who God says I am” Too late, it’s already out. 

Without hesitation she replied, “You need to remember, you are the most beautiful because you are so…” She searched for the right English word, ”…natural and spiritual. You don’t need to remind yourself because you are.” Whoa, she is preaching it to me. “You are the most free. Because you are so spiritual, you are free to fly anywhere you like” What do you say to that?

“Thank you for the encouragement. Do you always work here?” I asked. “From time to time” she replied. “Well hopefully I’ll see you again” I said as I took my foot off the brake. “God be with you” she said as I drove off toward the twinkling lights of ATL.

I don't know if my toll booth friend is walking with Jesus. I don't know why she felt the need to ask about my necklace; maybe she was lonely or maybe she just needed to practice a little English that night. But I do know that God used her to cheer up my heart and remind my head of how much He loves me. 

Be bold. Encourage a stranger. Realize every interaction you have is a divine appointment–even if it's just at the toll booth. 

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