random acts of kindness and spontaneous gifts of beauty
Today I worked from home until almost 2:30, then headed down to my physical therapy appointment. Today was my shoulders and elbows day. I got cranky when I got there because my doctor didn’t approve the extended sessions my therapists asked for and because apparently my insurance treats PT appointments like an office visit, which means it could cost me $80 per week to get my PT.
Then, while I was waiting to be seen, I was perusing the internet through the filter of things that get posted to my Facebook news feed. I got crankier and crankier. Everything was about how evil they are, how this or that isn’t good for Me (meaning whoever was posting). Obama is evil and the Republicans are stupid and Christians are meanies and gays are abominations and if you don’t agree with me then so are you.
Granted, for a half hour, all of that fell away as I got heat wrapped and massaged and exercised and more heat and electrified and even some ice for good measure.
Traffic sucked on my way home, and I had to stop to pick up a few groceries and as I pulled into the parking lot at the Safeway I was even more cranky than I had been before. There was a woman at the street light begging, and a guy at the entrance I go in to park begging. Near the entrance to the store itself was a woman and two very small kids. The youngest was maybe a year, the older one possibly three. She wasn’t begging, she was just sitting with the children in her lap and what was likely all of her worldly possessions gathered to either side.
I told myself I would pick up some diapers for the baby and offer them on my way out, and in I went to pick up stuff for dinner.
As I grumpily made my way around the store, I kept encountering a woman who was about seven months pregnant with a young girl who was possibly eight or nine years old. The little girl was carefully considering items and getting her mother’s help with math before she would put the item either into her own basket (not her mother’s) or back on the shelf.
At one point, as I was looking at cheese, the mother quietly said, “Remember honey, she probably doesn’t have any way to keep that cold.” The little girl nodded wisely and put back the bologna she had in her hand. They walked away and I wondered what this little girl was up to.
I next encountered them in the bread aisle. I noticed that the little girl had added a jar of peanut butter to the apples and carrots that had already been in her basket. She was figuring out the best bread to get as her mother picked out the cereal that was allowed on her WIC allotment for the month.
“Mommy, is this one okay?” She held up a loaf of the Safeway sandwich bread and her mother nodded. “So that’s another dollar and ninety nine cents, round up to two dollars.” She made a face as she added that to her previous total in her head. “That’s eight dollars and forty nine cents, right? And I have ten dollars and eighty three cents. So that’s two dollars and…” She squinted until her mother filled in the the thirty four cents for her. “Is it enough to get two cookies? Kids should get cookies.”
They wandered down the aisle toward the pre-packaged cookies and I followed, headed for the next aisle. I skirted past them and went on with my shopping, grabbing the diapers that looked like they’d fit the baby I saw out front and a package of wet wipes, and circling back to grab some paper plates for those nights when my heavy stone plates are too much for my hurting arms.
The little girl came tearing down the aisle toward me, looking a little upset, her eyes scanning the shelf. When she found what she was looking for, she looked heartbroken. Her mother wearily trudged up behind her. “I have to put something back.” The little girl was near tears. “I don’t have enough.”
“That’s a hard lesson.” I said.
The girl was frowning, clearly close to losing it. “She knows I can’t help her, we’re barely making ends meet ourselves.” her mother said softly.
A look in her cart showed only things one gets on the WIC program, which I’d already seen her consulting her cards for and little else.
“That isn’t for her?” I asked, looking in the basket the little girl had put down on the floor.
“She’s been saving for months to buy herself something. Her grandpa and a couple of the neighbors pay her a quarter for each grocery bag she carries from the car to their apartments.”
“They need something to spread the peanut butter on the bread.” the little girl interrupted. “So, no cookies.” She put the cookies on the shelf and pointed to the cheapest package of plastic utensils. “Could you please hand me one of those?”
I gave her the box and realized that this little girl was spending her money to feed the likely homeless family out front of the store. A little girl who had next to nothing herself.
I stopped, opened my mouth to say something, but she was already moving away, the abandoned cookies sitting on the shelf next to the paper plates I was there to get. I put the cookies in my cart. As I headed for the checkout, I grabbed a Safeway gift card. At the checkout, I handed the cookies back to the little girl, along with the $16 in my wallet.
I told her that it was a thank you gift, from a grateful neighbor, for all that she does to help the people around her. “So, get the cookies. Because you’re right, kids should get cookies.” She looked to her mom to make sure it was okay to take it, and after she nodded, the little girl took them, grinning up at me.
While the cashier rang me up, I scribbled a few phone numbers on the back of a business card, contacts for shelters, or homes that take in homeless children.
On the other side of the checkout, I gave the little girl a bag with the diapers and wet wipes, the gift card and business card tucked in as well, and we walked out together. The mother and I watched as the little girl approached the little family, as the woman looked at the gift, startled, but happy.
The little girl came back to her mother, beaming. “You did a good thing.” I said to her.
“I did the right thing.” she responded. “And so did you. I’m proud of you.”
I wanted to tell her I was proud of her too…but I couldn’t talk around the lump in my throat.