“Jesus Is My Mastercard” by Alice Smith in an interview with Ellen O’Hara

Illustration by Beth Pukala

I worked at Glenbard South High School, Glen Ellyn. From Elmhurst, I took the cloverleaf off Route 83 to head West on Roosevelt Road. I always had to slow down and remind myself, “this is a tricky turn”.  Over 30 years ago I was driving a Camaro that had zero traction in the snow. I always placed a 40-pound bag of dog food in the trunk to provide enough traction. Don’t you know, I started to skid. I was on the edge and out of control. I yelled, “Oh God. Help!”  My car straightened out, I regained control and 30 years later I can’t go by that spot without saying, “Thank you, Jesus.”  I imagined that He provided the 40 pounds of traction because the bag of dog food was nowhere in sight.

Every Friday after work I stopped at Ceebee’s for groceries.  It was a left-hand turn across a busy street and I admit I avoided the stop if at all possible. This time I even said there’s no need to stop so just keep heading home, but I felt a set of hands on mine turning the car into the left turning lane. I believe God was saying, “You have some business to attend to in there.”  I picked up a few items, shook my head knowing I was confused and waited for my turn in at the checkout. In front of me I watched a little, old man with a beard and very plump, purchase a lottery ticket.  He finished the transaction and decided to ask for another ticket. I teased him by saying, “You realize, that’s the winning ticket and I’m supposed to buy it!”  I purchased the next ticket and left the store with a silent plea. “Make me the millionaire, Jesus! It’s in your hands now.”  The following Monday morning one of my students was ecstatic!  “Grandpa won the lottery. He’s rich.” The ticket had been purchased Friday afternoon at Ceebee’s and her grandfather fit the description of the man who I teased about my winning ticket.  For a few months, I joked about “my winning ticket” in the hands of her grandfather.

To clarify my thoughts and receive inspiration I sit on the edge of my bed. It’s a safe place for me to cry, laugh, scream and express myself.  In the late 1980s my husband and I arduously survived an IRS audit.  It was bad. The agent was mean and I remember that she poked through documents implying that our case could only get worse. And it did when she announced, “It appears you owe $15,000. I’ll be in touch to get your signatures and arrange payments.”  On the edge of the bed, I pleaded to Jesus to lift this burden from our shoulders, to end this tirade with the IRS and to enlighten the agent to charge us half the amount.  $7,500 was still a burden, but better than $15,000.  At 7 a.m. the phone rang and a friendly agent announced her decision on a settlement. “We want to conclude this case quickly and decided to charge you half the amount. You owe $7,500.” Praise be to God.

In the early 90s my son, Tim, was selling his condo in Chicago at Marina Towers.  There was really no interest shown in his place and after 2 months he was very discouraged.  I sat on the edge of my bed, secretly known to me as the miracle spot, and asked Jesus to bring him a buyer with no contingencies; someone willing to pay the asking price and make it a clean, swift deal.  Three days later that buyer appeared. He loved the place. Had no contingencies and quibbled about nothing.

A few experiences like this in my lifetime confirms my trust in Jesus.  It is so easy to ask Him for a good resolution. I bleed for those who don’t trust in Jesus.

In my life, I have had the gift of faith and there is no better thing to own. My friends tease me by saying I make good use of my gift. You bet I do. I like to use my best things like china and crystal when I can. Jesus is my best thing. He is my Best Buy. In this card-carrying world, Jesus is my Mastercard.  He is priceless.

I have a secret wish to speak Polish. I love the language. I was serving communion at the hospital assigned to a Polish-speaking woman. Before placing the communion wafer on her tongue, she quickly said in Polish, “Teach me some English.” Her daughter interpreted and the solemnity of the occasion turned into joy as we laughed and conversed helping each other.  It’s a small example of how Jesus brings me to a situation that makes sense for me.

I loved the icon that was so popular in the mid 80’s of all the ways to say thank you in different languages.  I never took the time to buy a t-shirt or a poster with this explosive image. But, Jesus saw an opportunity. I was leaving school at 5:00 and by this time all the halls have been swept and cleaned for the next day. I spotted a piece of paper at the end of the hallway and decided to pick it up. It was a bookmark of the image I wanted on all the ways to say thank you in different languages. My friends made me aware that Jesus was saying thank you to me.  He found a way to give me something I wanted in a familiar setting and in a clever way.  It’s a twist of faith because usually I am the one thanking Jesus.

Note from Alice: This tall, Irish English teacher with strawberry blond hair is doing what she does best! She is correcting, grading and giving herself Jesus feedback in the same way she corrects, grades and adds comments to her students’ homework. Meeting her at the mall or for lunch at Culver’s is admitting that you will not look at your smartphone to check the time. One simply looses track of time in her presence. As a teacher in a public high school, Ellen is cautioned to keep Jesus out of the classroom. Ellen displays His goodness, peace and love through her smile, her presence and her voice.   

Biblical Note: For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joint and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Hebrews 4: 12-13 (NIV)

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