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Jul 24, 2009

Dear Barbara

Dear Barbara,

When you woke up this morning, I'm sure you didn't plan to rescue me. After all, we were strangers until about 3:30 p.m.

We met in the check-out lane at Walmart. My cart was two ahead of yours, full of a baby car seat, a screaming toddler, and a pile of junk food for the ward camp-out and an upcoming road trip. My "helpful" older children put our stuff on the conveyor belt, and as the cookies and bagels and crackers and juice (plus a backpack and a bicycle helmet) inched toward the register, I rummaged in my purse for the magic card that would pay for it all.

As my children put on an act from a supermarket horror show, you were probably musing silently about weekend plans or wondering what was taking so long up ahead.

Up ahead, I had just discovered I didn't have my wallet.

Earlier in the day, I had made an online purchase -- a bottle of cod liver oil capsules that are supposed to make my brain work better. Ironically, that brain-promoting purchase was the reason that my wallet was sitting next to the computer, rather than in its spot in my purse, when I needed to pay for groceries.

You had no way of knowing I had already had "a day." Or "a week," or "a month," or quite possibly, "a year." You were blissfully unaware of the violent emotional struggle I was having at that moment, two carts ahead of you. My rational self knew that abandoning my cart and coming back to Walmart later was not, in fact, the end of the world. But it kind of felt like it.

While I decided what to do, the family in line between us checked out. Once they went on their merry way, I told the cashier that I could pay for my things with a check, but that I didn't have ID. In her very broken English, she declined that proposal. She suggested I withdraw cash from the ATM, but I reminded her that I didn't have my wallet. She stared back blankly. I was getting ready to leave. Snacks for the camp-out (in two hours) would have to wait. I would come back another time...or not at all.

That's when you stepped up and offered to pay for my groceries.

Barbara, I cannot tell you what your gesture meant to me at that moment in time. While I kindly argued that I actually had money, just not cash, a credit card, or a driver's license, you insisted that you could buy whatever I needed. Eventually, being as desperate as I was, I agreed to let you help me. And you did. You wrote a check to Walmart for $83.48 and showed the cashier your ID. And I wrote you a check, giving you only my word that my account would cover the cost.

In response to my profuse expressions of thanks, you said simply, "I have been where you are. I had six boys." Even though you have obviously been a grandma for a long time, I could tell you haven't forgotten the struggle!

Today you restored my faith in humanity. You reminded me that there are good, generous, kind, and loving people in the world, and that service doesn't have to wait until the bonds of friendship are formed.

Thank you for sharing your love with a stranger today. I will be sure to pass it on.

With gratitude,

Heidi

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