Last night I made yet another trip to Costco. Our Costco is CrAzY busy, all. of. the. time. No matter what line I end up in, it seems to be the slowest one. It never fails. Some lady decides to pay for her huge double basket load of goods with all twenty dollar bills. Causing the cashier to call a manager to double count the money and then count the drawer down so it is not loaded with too many bills. Or, I get behind the person who is convinced they were overcharged by .50 cents and some poor guy has to run clear to the very back of the store to double check the price. Guess what? Costco is usually correct in the pricing 99.9997% of the time.
So, as I found myself torn between lines, I finally settled on the line that seemed to be the shortest. Before I knew it, another line opened up and two people beat me to the front of the new line, so I decided to stick it out in my current line. I will admit I kept eying the other line, in a mental race to see who would come out ahead in the end. I soon found out fate may have possibly played a role in my choosing yet again, the very longest, slowest line possible. I watched as the young couple ahead of me in line carefully unloaded their basket and were adding the total between themselves. Their total was $111.95. They had a $100 gift card. They both seemed to panic and were looking at their purchase carefully. The cashier said " Your total is only $11.95. I took the $100 from the gift card. So, you only need to pay $11.95 " Less than $12.00 was owed. The father pulled out his wallet and held a few crumpled dollar bills in his hands. He looked at his wife who looked back at him. They didn't have the $11.95.
Normally, I would not have even been tuned into the transaction ahead of me. I usually have a couple of kids begging for ice cream and churros. Or another industrial sized candy something or other. But, I was all alone. Able to think clearly and be aware of my surroundings. And usually, my shy and reserved self would ignore the urge to get involved because who wants to make a scene and be embarrassed? Not me!
As I watched the young couple struggle to come up with enough cash while their son was happily bouncing up and down in the cart oblivious to the worries only adults can comprehend, I offered to pay the $11.95. Everyone literally froze. The cashier said " You'll what??" I said " I'll cover it. It's eleven bucks, right? I'll cover it." I quickly slid my debit card through the reader and paid. The couple quietly thanked and scurried on their way. I am sure they were partially grateful and mostly embarrassed they didn't have a measly $12 to pay for groceries.
I quickly put my items on the conveyor belt and smiled at the cashier. His response was surprising and amazing. " Just when I had lost hope, man. You gave me chills. Unbelievable" The lady helping him load groceries into my cart said " I can't believe you just did that for a total stranger. That was so kind of you" Seriously people, it was twelve bucks. I honestly did not feel overly generous. I was almost embarrassed over the attention they were giving me. I just smiled and said " Hey, we've all been there haven't we? " At least I have, many times. Down to the last penny, wondering how we were going to make it a couple of more days before the much anticipated pay check arrives.
Before I could leave, the cashier shook my hand warmly and his assistant gave me a huge hug. It was a great feeling. Totally worth $11.95
I admit, I was pretty eager to lend a hand last night. Not because of my glowing altruistic values or my enormous bank account balance. I do enjoy serving others whenever I can and generally offer help to those I know. A stranger? Not quite as often. My willingness came because of another encounter I had at Costco just a few week prior that left a stinging reminder of how a simple gesture can make or break us. Show who we really are.
Because of the gorgeous weather that California has to offer, we have our fair share of homeless people begging on what seems like every corner. They are everywhere. In the local park, on benches when you are walking downtown to go out for a nice dinner date. We see them on garbage day as they dig out water bottles and other recyclables from our recycling bins. It is a constant reminder of how truly blessed we are. In fact, whenever I am having a bad day I often joke to myself " No matter how bad life gets for me, at least I am not the lady riding a bike with a Target basket in tow full of garbage bags, tin cans and plastic bottles."
A few weeks ago I took B with me to Costco. She begged for her favorite giant Double Chocolate Muffins. I caved and let her grab two packages ( why do we have to buy two packages?? One is surely enough...). After we had checked out and before we were even in the car, she had already started nibbling at her huge muffin. She can do that you know. She is 15, 5'2 on a good day and maybe 110 pounds soaking wet. As we drove out of the parking lot and waited to turn right onto the main street, there was the fixture. A homeless man holding a cardboard sign. I can still picture him from the corner of my eye with B in the foreground eating a huge muffin. I thought to myself, I should have her roll down the window and offer him a muffin. We probably won't eat them all anyway.
Being the protective Momma Bear that I am, I quickly thought about her safety and the awkwardness of the whole situation and opted to keep on driving. I felt guilty all the way home. I felt guilty all week as we munched on our heavenly Costco muffins. And I really felt guilty when I finally tossed the remaining three stale muffins into the garbage can a week later. I have reflected on that choice for weeks now. Why was I afraid of a little old man sitting on a corner? He would have not harmed us, at worse he may have even declined our offer.
So, while I was rounding the last corner of my 3 mile run a few days ago, I was still reflecting on ( or being haunted by ) my lack of service and kindness towards someone who had less than I did. Much less. I recommitted myself to help others whenever I was in the position to do so. I opened my heart and my ears to the whisperings of the Spirit and promised that if prompted, I would act. I really hadn't thought much more about it until last night. I didn't even have a "prompting" or really realize that I had offered to pay at first but I am so grateful I stepped up and paid $11.95 for a huge hug and a kind handshake.
As I reflected on my two experiences I was grateful I could be one of many, many hands of heaven on earth. I look forward to the day when service and charity towards those who are a strangers to us as well as our friends is no longer the exception but the rule. I hope people don't feel like they have " given up " on the good that is out there,. It really does still exist, in each one of us. So, go out and do some good people!!
And.... Be Grateful!!