Every year since this act of kindness occurred, I post it in my social media. I don’t cut and paste the story because retelling it each year grounds me and reminds me who we are called to be, not just in December but all year through.
A few years ago during the week before Christmas, I stood in a long line at Target. While I was there for only a few items, many people waited with their full carts. Tired from perusing the aisles and/or a long day of work, shoppers were ready to check out and head home.
Two carts in front of me, a young mother with her infant son began unloading. As she did so, it was clear that she was trying to add up all the items in her head. She checked her coupons and gift cards; all the while, her baby cried from fatigue or hunger or wet diapers. Even though she was concentrating on her grocery total, she managed to offer him a few tender words of comfort so he knew she was there.
As the clerk checked the items one by one, I watched the young girl nervously stare at the cash register and bite her lip. Her hand rocked the baby carrier in hopes of soothing her child. After the final item, a jumbo box of diapers, was added to the total, she began handing over coupons and gift cards.
At that point, I started to hear the groans of people behind me. Tired and haggard, they hoped they’d chosen the fastest line. Clearly, not
The cashier finished swiping all the papers and cards, but to her dismay, the young girl had underestimated the total. As a result, she fell several dollars short. She looked over her few bags trying to determine what could be sacrificed–the baby formula, the few cans of food, the toiletries or the diapers.
She picked up the box and handed it back to the cashier.
Then out of the corner of my eye, I noticed the woman ahead of me quietly and discretely slip some money across the counter. The cashier gently took the money, rang up the bill, and began to hand the change over to the kind soul who’d helped the mother. I can’t be sure what indication that the woman offered the clerk, but without hesitating, the cashier handed the change to the young mom.
The girl turned her head, and I saw her eyes sparkle with fresh tears. She thanked the compassionate woman multiple times then headed out into the night.
If I had not been paying attention, I might not have heard the next exchange between the woman and the cashier.
The clerk looked at the customer and said, “That was very kind of you to help that mom and her kid.”
The woman replied, “I could never have a child of my own. It was a gift to me to be able to help this one.”