I’m heading out of town tomorrow for a few days and have been a little preoccupied with how I’m going to do with my giveaways. In a different city and culture, will I still be able to follow my instincts? Granted, it’s not like I’m going to Djibouti, but San Francisco is a different world.
I had to stop at the store after work today. I got out of the car and was crossing the parking lot when I saw a woman struggling with her empty shopping cart. I always hate taking the cart back to the repository after loading my groceries in the car, so I decided to be really nice and offer to take her cart back for her. I was feeling kind of pleased with myself, thinking how this project is making me into such a nice person. Then I couldn’t find the place where you put the carts and I started to get annoyed. Ah! No wonder! Some idiot had parked right in front of it, blocking the whole thing. A couple of other shoppers were kind of circling around, trying to figure out how to put their carts away. Jeez. Some people!
It was getting dark but I could see well enough to realize that the offending vehicle looked vaguely familiar. Wait. Is that…? Doh! I was the one who was blocking everyone from putting their carts away. Wow. I hate that.
I fixed the problem as quickly as I could and headed into the store. I had the C-note in my pocket and just cruised the aisles for a while. There were a lot of people inside, mostly in ones and twos. I walked slowly and (I imagined) nonchalantly past the produce, the crackers, the peanut butter and the salad dressing. Heading into the frozen food aisle I saw a young woman pushing a little girl in a stroller. She was wearing tiny shorts that barely covered her bottom and said “Senior” across the back. High school? Possible, but she looked older. With the two of them was a slightly rounder version of the young woman. She had stopped pushing their shopping cart and was looking at the ice cream. “Klondike bars?”, I heard her ask. The cart was piled with chips, soda and frozen chicken. Something drew me to them.
“Excuse me,” I said to the woman with the cart. “Can I talk with you for a minute?”
“Okaaayy,” she said, visibly dubious. She maneuvered her cart around in front of her so it was between the two of us. “What’s it about?”
“Is this your family?” I asked. “Yes,” she said. “These are my daughters.”
She looked concerned, and mildly frightened. I saw the two girls watching me. “They’re beautiful,” I offered.
I smiled, trying to put them all at ease. The older girl grinned at me and did a gracious little curtsey. I told the mom what I was doing and that I wanted to pass along a gift. Her face went slack and I handed her the $100 bill.
The woman’s hand flew up to her mouth and she burst into tears. In one fluid motion she came out from behind her shopping cart and gave me a huge hug. “God is so good!”
She was crying hard. There was a story here, and lots of hurt. Her older daughter was crying, too. Then the woman said, “Your mother must have been a beautiful person.”
“Yes”, I agreed. “Yes, she was.”
That was it. We didn’t talk long before I went on my way. The two women were still standing there with tears in their eyes when I turned into the next aisle.
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Jill, today I read in the Ode Magazine a short article about the satisfactions of “making other people happy.” Researched! The article doesn’t appear in the online version so I can’t link it here, sorry.
At my everyday pit stop for coffee, the man in front of me went to pay for his coffee and paper, realized he left his wallet in the car – with a long line behind him, everyone rushing – he was so embarrassed, not sure if he should run to his car, or cancel his sale – I quietly said “don’t worry, I’m happy to take care of it for you” – he was all apologies, asked me to follow him to his car to repay me – I just said, “don’t worry about it, you can do it for someone else sometime”…
I go to pay, and it’s my usual $1.81 for coffee – I mention – I offered to pay for the guy who just left – he said, I voided it – pay me tomorrow!!!
Well, unfortunately I ended up with the stomach bug passed on by my wonderful family. 🙂 I’ve been flat on my back since late Sunday night, so I had to catch up on your blog tonight. This one really made me think because I know I have judged others based on what’s in their shopping cart. Isn’t that awful? Seriously, who am I to judge someone based on what they’re buying at the grocery store?! Thanks for the reminder/lesson. Can’t wait to read your next one!
I hope you are all finally healthy!!
I think it’s not infrequent that generosity breeds generosity, Jill. Thank you.