Friday, August 19, 2022 Aug 19, 2022
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The Prayer Circle at Toys “R” Us

I wanted water balloons. She wanted to save my soul.
By Alice Laussade |
Jonathan Carlson

The other day, I got prayer-circle-banged in the Toys “R” Us off Central and Walnut Hill. Somehow, I didn’t see it coming. I guess partly because, as I previously mentioned, I was in a Toys “R” Us. There are certain things you expect in a Toys “R” Us: play kitchens. Baby dolls. Plastic trash that only has a future living out its years jammed in closets or lodged up the noses of your children. But you don’t expect Jesus.

Not that Our Lord and Savior wouldn’t be into some Hulk Hands and a Rainbow Loom. Dude was great with his hands. But the only saving I was seeking inside the Toys “R” Us was 10 percent off those Bunch O Balloons water balloons, the ones where you hook up the hose to the end of it and, in like 20 seconds, you have 100 balloons, and then, in like 30 more seconds, you have a trashed front yard and bored kids.

As I reached for some Spider-Man Legos, an adorable woman dressed like she was ready for a sensible late lunch in Uptown made eye contact with me and smiled. I smiled back. That’s when she said hello.

My first thought: I know this woman, and I can’t place her at all, and she thinks I should remember her, and I don’t. But then she introduced me to three teenage girls who were with her. “This is Cassandy and this is Megtan and this is Polka Dot,” or whatever their names were.

So now I was thinking, Oh, dammit. She is panhandling. She is about to tell me her car is on fire outside and that they’re all on their way to a cheer camp and the only way they can save the world is if I give them $50 or a Furby.

But instead of asking for money, she asked if they could pray for me. I then cycled through several emotions that were all likely obvious by the look on my face: 1) Aww crap. Aww crap crap crap. 2) Dammit, Texas. This is the kind of thing that can only happen in you. 3) Be nice. These are well-meaning people. 4) Wait. Do I need to ask for anything from Jesus? 5) Nah. I have a cart full of Bunch O Balloons. I’m good.

Me: “Oh, thanks, y’all. That’s super sweet of you. But I’m doing great.”

Lady: [not letting up] “What’s that on your leg?”


I kept telling them that I didn’t need them to pray for me. But I guess my dirty Birkenstocks and lack of makeup told a different story.

Me: “Oh. We’re holding hands now?”

And suddenly, I was all in: holding hands with all of them while they were sincerely praying that my shinsplint healed and that my son’s birthday was successful. I was sweating because their religious sincerity and gentle hands made me super uncomfortable. I think religion is fine. I just get really anxious when it is thrust upon me. God thrusts aren’t my thing, I guess.

My instinct to run away fought my Mom Time Preservation Button that said just going with the flow would take less time than trying to get them to stop. I went with the flow. When they were done praying for balloons not to pop on Saturday, I said, “Amen! Okay, good job, guys!”

Adorable Lady gave me a Bible and a rainbow Lance Armstrong bracelet with Bible verses on it. Just like that, I was the lady with a Bible in her purse and a Bible bracelet on her wrist, rolling through Toys “R” Us. I wondered, What just happened? Did they save me? Did they steal my Bunch O Balloons? Am I healed? I wasn’t sure. But I couldn’t wait to see my kid’s reaction when he got a free book for his bday. Spoiler alert: he can’t read. Dammit, I thought, I totally should have prayed for that instead. That and for babies to be born knowing how to crap in toilets. Next time. Next time, I will be ready.   

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