The day was not shaping up great.
I was running late after dropping the kid off at school. I had to stop at the store on the way to work to grab two things — just two things! But as I dashed in for my raspberry Greek yogurt and cold medicine, I saw chicken broth that I needed for dinner and some red and green Christmas containers to bring to the office cookie exchange.
Like a cartoon character, I juggled and shuffled what ended up being closer to 10 items with no cart until I got to the checkout, where lo and behold, there was just one lane open and no one was there!
“Sorry, I can’t help you.”
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It turns out another customer’s order was half-rung up and she’d had to run back to exchange something.
Immediately, I felt a zing of righteous indignation. She screwed up so now I was standing here, trying not to drop my pineapple juice on my foot instead of paying and being on my way. I was busy!
I blamed the cashier. I blamed the customer. My nose was seriously out of joint.
And then she came back. With a cart.
I was in a mood, but like my grandma and the nuns at Immaculate Conception would want, I wasn’t out-and-out Grinchy to the older woman as she unloaded her cart, chatting gratefully with the cashier. But I would be lying if I didn’t say my annoyance probably radiated off me like heat from a fireplace. I wasn’t exactly filled with the holiday spirit.
I balanced my load on the edge of the belt while I waited. Then she called “Merry Christmas,” pressed something in my hand and was gone.
It was $20. She paid for my groceries. Overpaid, actually, since they came to about $12.
Well, now I felt like Scrooge. How hard was it to wait for one person to check out in front of me? Did it really put that big a dent in my day?
I looked at the $20 bill. There had to be a better way to put that to use at Christmas than paying for things I was already buying.
Instead, I took my groceries, apologized to the cashier and went to get a cart. Instead, my few items for me became three bags of holiday treats for the food bank.
Then I stopped at another store. I picked up a list for a kid who might not get a Christmas present. He wanted a skateboard. Don’t tell him, but he’s getting one.
The money that lady I don’t know gave to make up for my minor inconvenience multiplied several times that day, but that wasn’t the real magic.
Her simple and genuine gesture didn’t just change my day. It changed my holidays, and let me pass that gift along to others.
I just can’t thank her enough.