The other day I was in the checkout aisle with three kids who had reached their limit. Fred was cranky and climbing out of his safety strap. Stella was crying because I wouldn’t let her have candy. Chloe kept whining for all the little knick-knacks in the shelves in the aisle. Despite all the chaos I noticed that the lady in front of me didn’t have enough money for her groceries. Her card had been declined. As she was looking through her cart, trying to decide what to put back, I asked the cashier how much she owed. “About ten dollars.” (It turned out to be $18 but, still, not a big deal.) “I’ll pay it.” “Really?” Yeah, really. And not because I was anxious to get my kids out of public so I could lay into them but because I have been given much I, too, must give. The lady quietly thanked me and went on her way. The cashier thanked me over and over. I asked, “Her cart wasn’t full of beer was it?” “Oh no, it was food stamps.”
Food Stamps? In a card form?! That is brilliant! That would have saved me a lot of embarrassment when I was a teen. Like the time I was with my mom when she had to get groceries after picking me up from practice. We went to Harmon’s on 700 south—the far, opposite direction of Santa Clara. I waited in the car and kept a look out for anyone that might know us. My mom came out of the store the same time as popular Sarah, the surgeon’s daughter. I think friendly-little-future-student-body-president was even saying hello to my mom. What if they had been in the same line? So humiliating. Because it is shameful to be poor, you know. But a barcode would have saved me all that anxiety. I could have pretended we were using a credit card to earn flyer miles for our summer vacation.
Back to my first story. So I’m feeling pretty good for helping someone. Which helps me to strap three grumpy, tired, hungry kids in car seats without swearing (out loud) or beating them. Then I start unloading the groceries and notice something for which I didn’t pay. I was NOT going to get my kids out of their seats and back in that store. We would not have survived. I have often asked someone heading into the store to return an unpaid for item but there was nobody around, and remember, the kids are crying and fighting and I think I needed/wanted the item. So I left. Yeah, basically I stole. I had intentions of righting the wrong but now I don’t remember what it was but it was only worth about $3. I figure karma still owes me about $15. So, I’m good.