Typical scenario…I’m rushing into the grocery store, likely picking up an item I’ve conditioned myself to deem as “necessary” for existence like flavored coffee creamers. As I grabbed my cart, I passed a man holding his toddler-aged daughter talking on his cell with who I assumed was his wife on the other end. He was being discreet, keeping his voice to almost a whisper, but I could tell he was upset. Maybe I noticed because I was alone and not distracted by trying to keep my own toddler from taking out the canned foods section; or maybe, because I’m a little nosy by nature I was curious. Either way, I lingered around the produce section watching as he talked and paced around the entrance. He was becoming more frantic, saying that he wasn’t able to buy any food or diapers- his paycheck hadn’t been deposited, and their account had only a few dollars left. Of course, my first thought is…SCAM with a capital “S”! The skeptical side of me, jaded by the takers of this world was saying, “Walk away, mind your own business. This is just a way for this guy to get someone to give him money, right?” I decided to move on and forget it…but, there he was again as I turned down aisle 5. Still on the phone, he quietly said he would find a few things for the kids’ dinner and try to get diapers. I watched as he stretched his few dollars picking up the cheapest, smallest pack of diapers, then reaching for a can or two of something ridiculously basic for his family’s dinner. That was it. This was real. I needed to help him. But how without making it obvious I had overheard his conversation? Offer to pay for his groceries, go give money to the check out clerk? I found myself walking toward him without knowing what I was going to do. I handed him a $50 bill I had taken out of my wallet and folded up. “Sir, I think you dropped this out of your jacket pocket back there”, was all I could think to say. He didn’t even answer me- his eyes wide, looking down at what I was handing him, then back at me. I wished him a good night and walked away.
We’ve all been dealt a hand that’s created the exact feelings that man had in the store that day- helpless desperation. Maybe it doesn’t come in the form of struggling to make ends meet, but it’s the pain of broken relationships, misunderstandings, the anguish and grief that comes with loss of loved ones, or suddenly being downsized from your job with no where to turn. Helping that man in the store didn’t make me feel good about myself because I gave him money. It reinforced that we are all the same, struggling and celebrating through life from our own vantage point needing and giving help along the way.
Here’s to a happy, healthy 2016 and as Oprah says, “another chance for us to get it right”!
picture from https://www.pinterest.com/evelynhenson/