In mid-December 16 or 17 years ago at Wally World in Murphy, a young family ahead of us is looking really bad off.
The young mother had that worn worried look – you know, the type of look you see when someone has tried everything, and it has blown up in their face or has just failed to get anywhere despite really trying. But even with that worn look, you could see a natural sweetness of grace in her, behind all the tons of problems she was carrying on her shoulders.
The father – not much older than 27, if that – was speaking with the store’s cashier. It seems the store’s food stamp validation system was down, and the family couldn’t get their purchases until maybe the next day.
We heard him say to the cashier something like, “We only got the car for today, can we wait ... Do you think it will start working again in the next few hours ...?”
There was more, but it was personal between him, his wife and his kids.
We both immediately saw something different about this young father and mother – they weren’t screaming or yelling, or even giving the cashier a hard time. No, they acted like it was just something else that was going wrong in their lives and understood it wasn’t meant to be, and they would have to figure out a way to work around it.
We watched as he started counting his pocket money, looking at the Christmas presents and the more needed food as he was doing so.
My husband looked at the simple basic toy presents and the contents of both shopping carts, and he quickly noticed things were missing, the type of simple gifts a husband and a wife might give each other. There were no tobacco or frivolous products, either.
We looked at the food cart – it had large-size packages and cans of everything, nothing wasted on junk food or fancy items. Not even off brand-name sodas, paper towels, canned biscuits or a thrill like a box of off-brand breakfast cereal. No, what we saw were lots of milk jugs, all-purpose flour, eggs, chicken meat, bags of potatoes and several 5-pound tubes of ground beef.
In our minds, we could see the young father was mentally counting change to see what food he could get to hold his family over until he could borrow a car again.
This family, standing in front of us, was just trying to figure out how to eat and give their kids each a simple present for Christmas. But their situation wasn’t going to let them accomplish something that many of us take too easily for granted.
Then I saw my husband bite his lip and shake his head, something he does when a situation really bothers him. I understood immediately that he was seeing the same thing I was – a family really busting their backsides just trying to get by another day.
I started to wonder was there enough hope in this family’s lives to still dream of one day getting ahead? I wondered could they sink any lower and still get by another day? I wondered what adverse circumstances had played a major role making their lives what they were living.
By just looking at him, it was obvious that this guy had been kicked around enough already for two lives. As this was going through my mind, my husband then turned to me to tell me we were going to pay this man’s bill, and as he did I already had the credit card out, nodding my head, knowing that he and I were planning the same thing before either of us had a chance to speak a word.
Without asking, we told the cashier, “Here, use this.” The look on their faces spoke thousands of words. I could see my husband was again upset when he suddenly understood that he may have inadvertently shamed the young father in front of his family.
The young man was embarrassed to the core, but I could also see he understood that no matter what he did, he knew could not accomplish what was needed at this time and place in his life for his family without a little Christian and Santa-like help.
He came over to us and humbly said it wasn’t necessary, that he and the family could wait a few hours for the Wally World food stamp system to start working again. But my husband and I winked and nodded to the cashier to ring it up.
When the guy saw it was really happening, he practically crumbled right there on the spot. A moment later, after collecting himself, he offered to pay us back if we would give him our name and address.We just told him something that likely shocked him as much as us paying his $180-plus shopping bill.
“We are passing along a favor someone did for us many years ago, when we needed it just like as bad as you do now.”
My husband shook his hand and then told him, “It’s your turn now, do something for someone who really needs help some day.”
The young wife just sat down and cried, the husband came over to check on her, the young kids didn’t understand why, but they knew something had just happen that upset their parents.
We all learned something that day. Problems can be solved by simple acts of kindness to our fellow man. The young couple likely learned that some people do care and will do something about it.
If you ask yourself why we did this? We look at it as an investment in humanity. My husband and I strongly believe that all good deeds are passed along, and it will affect hundreds of others more before it gets used up.
We have wondered every Christmas for years how that family fared, and did their life get better so they could eventually pass it along to someone else?
By an anonymous husband and wife who live in Cherokee County.