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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6 Responses to Yes, She Was

  1. Betsy says:

    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.

  2. Susan Bolton says:

    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!!!

  3. Carrie says:

    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!

  4. Timea says:

    I think it’s not infrequent that generosity breeds generosity, Jill. Thank you.

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