“Okay,” he replies. A lot of people give this answer, but after watching the cashier take the groceries from his cart, one at a time, I see he is fibbing. He isn’t okay at all.
His cart is full of the basics; generic toilet paper, generic toothpaste, Suave, store brand milk, eggs–the list goes on and on, ending with all sort of medicinal things. The man surely isn’t “okay,” although many of us say this when we’ve just cashed a check and should feel relieved, if nothing more.
The cashier gives him his total and he digs his hand into his pocket, pulling out some carefully folded bills and unfolds them. He reaches into his other pocket and pulls out a handful of change. Without counting it, his eyes move from his hand to the bags of groceries at the end of the counter, slowly taking in what he is unable to pay for. I’m certain he is weighing out in his mind, what he could manage without until the day he receives his next pension, social security, or more than likely, state-funded income.
I reach into my purse and grab my card. I guess you’re probably thinking, “Oh, she’s going to give him money because he can’t pay for his things….” But, unfortunately, you’re incorrect.
As I hand my card to the cashier, the only thing I can think of is, “I need to get out of here or I’m going to be late!” But not knowing what I was thinking, she takes the card with a huge smile and glances at the gentleman.
Most people, most who can afford to, will turn down an injury to their pride, someone helping them–but not him. It is obvious he cannot afford to deny what should be rightfully his, according to God. “The meek shall inherit the earth.”
He does not smile, but his eyes well-up. He does not even look at me, but instead whispers, “Thank you,” with his head lowered. My goal is not to humiliate him, but having him return something he obviously needs would be even more humiliating, I think. Because every time he needs it, he’ll remember he couldn’t afford it, but needs to wait. On his next trip, if he can afford it, he’ll be remembering he’s playing catch-up.
Suddenly, my mood changes, as I see clearly how much I’m helping one of “my own family”; my uncle, my grandfather, my own father, brother or children…. and I pray quietly to God that should they ever be in a similar situation, someone steps up to help them get what they need.
Recanting this memory, I post on “Facebook” this post: “Have you ever purchased groceries for the person in line ahead of you? Highly recommended!”
A couple of people, “Like” my comment, but I only get one true response. Here it is: “Just got back from grocery shopping… $178. If someone would have stepped up and bought them for me..yeah, I’d have been more than happy and surprised.”
Disappointment seeps into my inner-self because I wonder if we really know what “need” is! But then, becoming impatient with an elderly man purchasing his groceries is pretty awful, isn’t it?
Here’s a proposition I make to you…. instead of giving your change to someone asking for it, give it someone who is too proud to ask. Find someone (it’ll be easy, if you open your eyes), and pay attention, you won’t need to ask. You also will not ask them if they want help–simply give it.
Come back within a week’s time and let us know what you did, that celebrated Christmas. Share what you do and what you learn, so the rest of us can have some clear or new ideas.
This, my friend, is what Christmas is truly about!