Have you seen the stories about the “layaway angels“? People (in substantial numbers) are filing into KMarts all around the country and asking to pay off layaway accounts, usually for kids’ items. A friend of mine posted this on Facebook yesterday:

The line at the layaway counter at the Tualatin Kmart had more than one angel today. By 3 pm there had been over 2 dozen. It was heartening to see so much generosity in the community. I met a very nice 6’5″ tall gentleman angel, unexpectedly met and hugged a friend who was purchasing toys for unknown children, and heard someone at KMart comment “this is how the world is supposed to be” as she watched the events unfold. Calling all angels! May everyone experience the beauty my daughter and I saw today.

I love that this is happening and it’s given me a lot to think about. I didn’t even really get how layaway works until now. I wasn’t aware how often people can’t make all the payments and that they then lose whatever they’ve already paid as well as the merchandise. I guess the system allows some people to buy things they couldn’t afford to pay for all at once. Or (my cynical self asks) is it just another way to prey on those in desperate financial straits?

I was thinking about all these angels today, and I looked at the people in the store a little differently. There was a light-heartedness and excitement in the air. I guess candy cane displays and piles of flannel sleepwear on sale will do that. Myself? I was pretty focused on the task at hand, which was getting out of there as soon as possible.

I have to say: as a Jew, the pervasiveness of all things Christmas makes me feel like a bit of a freak. I’ve never decorated a tree or hung up Christmas lights. I don’t understand poinsettias and how they turn from green to red (or even if that is right). And what is tinsel?

Although the atmosphere was a bit of a blur, I couldn’t help but notice the people in the store. One woman, especially, caught my eye. She was walking with a pronounced limp and had a young girl with her, probably her granddaughter. The two of them made me remember Cecilia and Serena from last year.

When I finished my shopping I saw that the two of them were also in line. They got to the self checkout and one of the store employees started helping them. The woman and girl were talking and laughing with a sweetness I’ve witnessed many times. I snuck a couple of pictures, hoping they wouldn’t notice.

It took a while for their stuff to get rung up. I decided to wait. Finally, they were ready. The woman headed for the lottery machines and bought a couple of tickets. Then they were on their way to the door.

I caught up with them just as they were about to leave the covered area. “Before you head out into the rain, can I talk with you for a minute?” I asked. I told the woman I couldn’t help but notice that she had bought a lottery ticket (actually, this wasn’t really true. I was spying on them). “You do have some good luck today,” I assured her.

“Really. How’s that?” I said I was passing along a gift I had gotten from my mom and that I had something I wanted to give to her. “And that would be…?” she asked, doubt written across her features.

“It’s this. It’s a hundred dollars.” I gave her the bill and she gasped, then let out a laugh. “Thank you, wow, that’s so great!”

She introduced her granddaughter, Amaya, and told me her name was Pam. She said she takes care of Amaya one or two days a week and has ever since she was a baby. Then she told me that after her father died she gave a little money to a number of people, telling them to do something fun. “Because my Dad was a good-time guy and I wanted them to remember him that way.”

On the way to my car I saw a man offer to help a woman return her cart to the front of the store. Then someone waiting for a parking space waved another car in front of him.

See what I mean? Angels. Everywhere.

Amaya and Pam




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2 Responses to Calling All Angels

  1. DJan says:

    Yep, it’s just as I thought: it’s catching. I never go to KMart myself, but I might just check out the one here and see if angels are walking around… love the thought of the “benign virus of love” wafting through the air. 🙂

  2. Betsy says:

    The reason you recognize that certain sweetness between people is that you have that quality yourself. I met you fifteen-plus years ago, and have felt it in your presence many times. It’s much more apparent now, though, which makes the world a better place.

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