Round 2

Writers Write

So THAT’S What It’s About…

With all the violence and fear-mongering going around, it’s nice when people act human for a change. My state had its own recent shooting scare 15-minutes away from where my son used to live. And a week later, some stupid bitch walked into a pizza place 10-minutes from my sister’s house and shot the cashier in the face after getting the money. But a few days later, all of that evil diluted when two businessmen decided to pay off 60 Christmas layaways out of the blue. And just like that, hope restored. But it still teetered.

I believe wholeheartedly in paying it forward. You hear about it all the time – or used to anyway. But being a part of the big ones? That’s rare. I’ve done little things as I could – paid for gas fill ups behind me, fast food bills, etc. I’ve never gone beyond the $50 range, though, because I just didn’t have more to spare. However, the big ones are random at best, and being a part of a significant one in any context is about as common as spotting a peacock in full plumage walking down a country road – which I have seen once, so I know how unusual that is. Nonetheless, strange things do happen.

Well, my sister was in a holiday slump this year. She recently changed jobs, bills were piling up and added marital issues haven’t helped. After 20 years as a waitress, she found herself working retail because that’s all that was hiring before the holidays. Pay was less, hours were longer, and stress mounted. A couple days before the holiday she had just finished her grandbaby’s shopping and worried no one else would get anything… until one person’s kindness reminded her that none of it mattered.

A woman came through her checkout line. Her hair was scraggly, she had no makeup on, and her clothes were loose and baggy. She pulled a cart full of toys through the area and fought with her purse, checking everything against a list while muttering. My sister was sure at first that the woman was a crackhead. She wasn’t… she was just frazzled and desperate to get her shopping done in time.

The woman looked like she was about to cry as she put two items back and pulled out two Visa gift cards. One had $2 and change on it and the other had just over $10. The rest of the bill came out to over $120 after coupons and discounts. Half of the contents of her purse landed in the cart as she searched for her correct debit card to pay the balance. The story played out like a memory. Goodness knows I’ve been in that position as have many people I’ve known. It’s maddening, especially when you’re in a rush.

My sister was getting annoyed, but she just smiled and offered to help as the woman brushed her off and became even more agitated. Her purse dropped onto the floor to a chorus of curses and probably a few tears. And then it happened. Out of nowhere, a man standing behind her whipped out his own plastic card and swiped it saying, “Here ma’am. This card should work.”

The woman stood up and spun around looking like she had been struck. My sister gave the same expression with a dropped jaw. The man calmly replaced his card and smiled as his wife placed her hand on his shoulder and nodded. The woman remembered she had a voice and said, “No, no. I have money. Really. Let me repay you” as she pulled out some twenties and a fifty to cover her total. Both the man and his wife simultaneously shook their heads as he said, “No. Ma’am. Keep it and spend it on your kids. Just repay me by having a Merry Christmas.”

The shocked woman whispered her thanks, nodded and tore out of the store without another word. Whether she was embarrassed or afraid he’d change his mind, my sister didn’t know. She also couldn’t see her with eyes full of tears. Seeing her crying, a manager ran up and asked the only thing he could: “Honey, are you crying because I asked you to stay late?”

My sister in all of her glory yelled, “NO! I’m just so fucking emotional. I mean, why couldn’t I have been standing in front of him?!”

The couple burst out laughing as my sister cupped her mouth and then joined in. Turned out when they entered the store the wife said they needed to pay off someone’s layaway. The husband agreed. However, my sister’s store didn’t have a layaway department. The man explained that he happened to have an especially good year through work. It doesn’t always happen, but he felt the need to pay it forward – and they were fortunate to find someone who could use the help right then. My sister ran around the counter and hugged both of them to a round of applause and more tears.

My sis just kept hugging both of them while stammering, “Thank you for reminding me what the holidays are about. I just changed jobs and was worried about shopping for my loved ones. I help others get their stuff here, but I’ve been stressed out of my mind about getting my own. But I have a warm home… loving family… a new grandbaby on the way. I am blessed beyond measure. And YOU reminded me of this! So thank you.”

And after all of that – all of the stress, worry, and impromptu disclosure to complete strangers, everyone here managed to have a great holiday.

As for the woman who was paid forward… I hope she had a wonderful Christmas with her kids and is in the position to one day help someone else. The world needs more kindness.