I should have known better. I thought I had learned to always carry a hundred dollar bill and my camera with me. You never know when the perfect opportunity will present itself. But yesterday, when I had to make a quick dash to the store, I just stuck my wallet (sans hundred) in my coat pocket and didn’t look back.
I was meeting a friend and was a little pressed for time. Not bad, but enough that I sized up the lines at the checkout and tried to pick one of the shorter ones. As usual, I had bought more than the few things on my list so was not a candidate for the express line.
There was one person in front of me being rung up and I started unloading my basket. A woman with long gray hair stepped into the line behind me. She was tall and lean with a beautiful smile and open face. She had no cart, just a single item in her hand: a paper coffee cup with “$3.50” written on the lid and “decaf hazelnut latte” on the side. “Go ahead. Please,” I suggested, indicating with a wave that she should go in front of me.
“Oh, no, that’s okay.” She shook her head. “I’m not in a hurry. Anyway, patience is a virtue!” She put her hand on my shoulder like we were old friends. “Thanks, though.” Then she started to explain that she was a retired hairdresser and just likes to take things slow. We chatted about what it was like to have time on your hands and how everyone seems to be in too much of a rush these days. Every so often she put her hand on my arm or my shoulder and leaned in close, smiling her big smile.
Her familiarity was definitely beyond the norm but it was refreshing rather than creepy. Another woman came up behind her. “I’m one of those people who reads the bad magazines while I wait,” she explained, reaching around my new friend for a copy of People. “You know what’s a good magazine?” my friend suggested, somewhat rhetorically. “National Geographic. You always learn something with that one.” The latest issue was sitting (somewhat accusingly, I thought) on the shelf, right next to Real Simple.
When I got to the register I leaned in to the cashier and said softly, “Put her coffee on, too.” I could hear the two women talking and laughing behind me. I finished paying and made a beeline out of there. Somehow I wanted to be gone by the time her turn came.
I was halfway across the parking lot when she came out the door. I saw her look around quickly and then she pointed at me. “YOU!” she yelled, with a little shake of her head. Like she wasn’t really surprised at all. “Thank you!”
It wasn’t $100, but it was awesome.
Today I was determined to make my gift and knew I would remember the hundred. A few things are (literally) falling apart in our house and I told Louise I would pick up some wood glue and milk at Fred Meyer. It wouldn’t be much of a walk, but at least it would get me out of the house. Then it started to snow and I put it off for a couple of hours.
Finally I decided to brave the cold gray day and I ventured out. Super glue liquid, super glue gel, precision super glue, plain glue, wood glue, wood glue MAX, Gorilla glue, Gorilla super glue, SUPER super glue!! Wow! The selection was epic. I decided on some wood glue and a tube of super glue, thinking that would cover the bases. I tossed the items in my cart.
I was about to head for the dairy case when a little idea prickled up in the back of my mind and my heart sank. I knew I had pocketed the hundred and I was pretty sure I had remembered my camera. My wallet? Not so much. I didn’t remember putting it in my pocket and, sure enough, it wasn’t there.
There was a couple standing together at the display of masking tape. They were deep in conversation about what they needed. The woman glanced at me. “I guess it would help if I remembered my wallet!” I said, with a chuckle. “Oh, no! That’s awful!” she said sympathetically. Her husband was a few steps away. He looked up. “What?” he asked. “She forgot her wallet,” explained the woman. “Oh, no,” he said with a smile. “Guess you gotta start over!”
I laughed in agreement and stepped away. I considered using the hundred to make my purchases. Just for a minute. I glanced around, thinking about what to do. Then I thought about the couple. What about them? They were still standing at the display and talking quietly. I went over.
I explained that I was paying forward a gift and that I had actually remembered to bring it, even though I had forgotten my wallet. I really must have seemed like a kook. They listened politely, a puzzled expression on their faces. They glanced at each other. “What is it?” asked the man.
I took the bill out of my pocket and handed it to him. “Oh!” he said. “Why would you want to give us a hundred dollars?” The woman’s eyes filled with tears. I explained about honoring my mother and paying it forward. They both gave me a hug. Then they let me take their picture, but it took a little convincing..
We talked for a while and they shared a little of their story with me. Byron’s from Guyana and they met years ago through a friend. “You really got me right here,” he said, patting his chest. Patsy chimed in. “What a way to make a day! We won’t soon forget this.” “You’re a blessing,” added Byron.
So are you. All of you all.
On the way home, this happened.
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