I had pretty much forgotten about the “layaway angels.” It’s so strange how when something isn’t in the news – it’s like it doesn’t exist. Like homelessness, war, and hunger. And goodness, kindness and redemption.
I was near the checkout at Sears yesterday and a woman and her daughter caught my eye. I said hello and made a little small talk. The girl was very shy and would barely meet my glance. She said she was 9 years old and almost smiled when I noticed that she is on track to be taller than her mom within a year or two. “She has a great-grandmother who was six foot six!” her mother chimed in.
When we parted ways, they were sifting through the sale racks of purses. Everything was marked way down, up to 50%. As I saw the two of them approach the checkout I was thinking maybe I’d catch up with them on their way out and make my gift.
It was taking a long time and I got a little closer so I could hear what was going on. What a busybody! I heard the cashier saying something about how they had to make a payment or else they could “break the contract.” “Something something layaway.”
I couldn’t really tell what was going on, but it was taking a long time to sort out. People were lined up at the checkout and another cashier stepped in to help. The woman and her daughter stood there stoically while the cashier called her manager. I heard her say, “I have to run your card again. It won’t let me just take the payment. It keeps asking for the full amount.”
I’m not even sure now if they were buying something or just trying to make a payment on another item. But it was exhausting. The minutes ticked by. A manager came over, more officious than helpful. I was supposed to meet Louise and I was going to be late but I was determined now to give them the week’s hundred.
Finally something worked out and the two of them stepped away from the checkout, walking hand in hand toward the exit. I caught up with them and asked to have another word. The mom looked at me with a tired smile. “Yes?” she asked.
I explained that I was paying forward a gift in honor of my mother. The woman looked puzzled. “You want to buy us something?” I took the bill from my pocket and held it out. “No, I want you to have this.”
“Oh! Really? You sure? We’re okay!” she reassured me. Somehow, I convinced her to take it and she thanked me. “I certainly can use it. What’s your name?” she asked me.
They weren’t keen on having their faces photographed. The woman asked some questions about my mom and said her own mother was in the hospital. The little girl watched us, eyes darting away each time I looked at her.
We were standing in front of a display of kids’ watches. They were on sale too. The woman said her daughter had wanted one. “But I told her I didn’t have any money. Now you can pick one out, honey pie.”
Disney? Or Hello Kitty? That was the question.
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