December 16, 2015
I was out shopping at Harris Teeter today and as I was checking out, I heard a voice tell me to buy two $25 gift cards and give them to someone who looks like they need them. I thought...now how will I know who to give them to. As I finished checking out, I remembered an elderly man I had seen in the produce earlier. He was very hunched over and it looked like it was hard for him to shop. I left my cart of paid groceries in the aisle and walked around the store looking for him. I found him still in the produce. I walked over to him nervous that I might offend him and said, "Excuse me sir, can I give you a gift for Christmas?"
He looked at me with such warm eyes and said,"Are you kidding me?"
I said that I wasn't and wanted to give it to him as a gift. He pulled off his hat and said that I was going to make him cry. He had been inside all week crying because he just lost his mother on Thursday and he was out at the grocery store buying things to make pie for the funeral guest this weekend.
I had chills all over and knew that he was the one I was supposed to give the card to.
He asked, Who sent you?
I pointed up and said that was a long story.
This man said that he couldn't believe this was happening to him. He said, "In all my life I have never had anything like this happen to me. I am faithful and I help out at the shelter. Well, I'll be."
Then he said to me, "So you mean I can buy anything I want with this card. I can buy chicken or whatever I want?"
This broke me open.
I assured him that he could buy whatever he wanted.
He said, "My mother died on Thursday and before she had dementia she would help people with her cooking. Everyone is coming to my home and I am making pies for them."
I said, "Well I was told to buy two cards and I think the second one is for you too." And I handed him the two cards.
We both stood next to the onions with tears in our eyes.
He asked if I was an angel and I said no, "Just a good listener."
I left him in the produce where I first saw him, my insides shaking as I wanted to cry. You never know what someone is going through.
I came home and put my groceries away and saw the calendar on the door and looked up the date of last Thursday. It was Dec. 10th. The anniversary date of my son's death.
The flood gates opened.
I never intended to be out shopping today or to hand out gift cards. I am so glad that I listened. I plan on gifting many more this holiday season!
It has been over three weeks since experiencing my own Christmas story and I am still moved. I am struck by how I could be unaware of what others are going through on a deeper level. I have often noticed people in the grocery store painstakingly picking out their items or cashing out with only a few things in their cart. I have often thought that they must be on a fixed budget. What I didn't think about was the reality of food stamps and what that actually means. The elderly gentleman instantly schooled me on the deep, institutionalized conditioning of a life on food stamps. He brought it home to me that you never know what someone else is going through or how easy it is to lend a helping a hand. He left me with a craving to do more.
As a child who grew up in the Canadian welfare system to a single mother of eight children, it was full circle moment.