Sunday, January 5, 2020

Angels in Our Midst


This story was prompted by a heart-warming posting of Arkansas Patti in November of 2019. In it, she encouraged her readers to share their own stories of unexpected generosity. Before sharing mine, I need to give you some background.

Between 1980 and 1984, I was the curriculum director for Winston Press in Minneapolis, Minnesota. For the position, which required traveling throughout the United States, I had to buy and wear professional clothing—suits, high heels, make-up. I never felt comfortable in those costumes. In truth, I felt like a painted mannequin. 

When I resigned and began to work in my home as a freelancer (1984-2001), I wore comfortable clothes: summer—shorts, T-shirts, sandals; winter—sweats, turtlenecks, loafers. And . . . no makeup. I always wore a size or two larger than necessary because I like my clothes to enfold me. 

Once, an acquaintance said, “Dee, you look like a bag lady. I know you don’t care how you look, but I’m embarrassed when I lunch with you.”

“Then don’t,” I said. And that was the end of that. 

Perhaps, in my oversized clothes, I do look like a bag lady. At least one experience shores up that possibility. It’s the story I’ll share with you today. (By the way, being a bag lady simply means that someone—it could be me—or you—is down on our luck.)

At 83, my hair is gray, my face lined. I’ve lost two inches in height, so I’m somewhat stooped. One winter afternoon, I went to Price Chopper to take advantage of a sale in the large grocery store. I was wearing sweats and a somewhat tattered and stained green winter jacket I’d bought from L. L. Bean in 1979. 

As I put my groceries on the check-out counter, I heard, “Mam?” 

I kept putting the cans on the counter. 

Then, a little louder, “Mam?” 

I looked beyond my cart. Next in line stood a young man, perhaps in his late twenties. He looked anxious.

“You mean me?” I asked.

“Yes, Mam. I want to fill up your cart. Anything in the store.”

Puzzled, I said, “Thanks so much, but I don’t need anything. Really.”

He glanced down at my cart. “Mam, I hate to think of you eating that.”

I looked at my items: 39 cans of Friskies cat food and 6 loaves of Cobblestone rye bread—both on sale that day. 

 “Mam, I can’t let you live on cat-food sandwiches. Please let me fill your cart. Please.”

The check-out clerk, overhearing the conversation, asked, “Mam, do you want to check out? Or shop some more?”

Bemused, I stretched a hand toward this benevolent stranger and said, “Thank you, but the cat food is for the three cats with whom I live—Ellie, Maggie, and Matthew. The bread’s for me. I have food at home. Truly. But you’re so wonderful to offer to do this. You’ve made my day.”

“Mam, please.”

“Truly, I’m fine,” I said. “But so many others need help.” 

He frowned, momentarily looked down at the floor, then raised his head, his eyes bright with a new idea. “Well, he said cheerfully, “could I give you some money?”

I broke into a wide smile. He was so dear. “Thank you,” I said. “I’m really okay. But maybe you could send a check to Harvesters or the City Union Mission for the hungry and homeless.”

He accepted my refusal with good grace, then, smiling, said, “I will, Mam. Really I will.”

 “I know you will,” I assured him. 

I checked out, thanked him again, and came home, my faith in the deep-down goodness of humanity reaffirmed. I hold that young man dear in my heart. 

Peace 

Photograph of bread from Wikipedia.

32 comments:

  1. Oh Dee.
    Thank you.
    Tears fill my eyes, and that fragile bird of hope stretches its beautiful wings.

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    1. Dear Sue, I think the virtue of hope is what we all need to hold on to now. All Australians, caught up in what climate change and fire is doing to your continent, must be hoping for a torrential downpour of rain from the heavens and funds from all of us around the world who care about Australia and all who live there. Take care. It must be hard to watch what's happening but out of the ashes let us HOPE that some good--surprising, unexpected, providential--will come to all of you and to our planet. Peace.

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  2. Oh, such a wonderful story! I laughed out loud at his assumption, but he might have been correct. Thanks for making my day, Dee :-)

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    1. Dear DJan, the encounter certainly made my day. I'm so glad that you laughed out loud. That just tickles me! Peace.

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  3. Dee... great story... and I can see that happening. We buy tons of cat food, canned & dry at Walmart, but most of our own groceries we buy at Central Market. We have had people
    look at us strangely at Walmart and even one
    lady ask about it. We told her that we have 3 cats, but we also feed the neighborhood ferals. She insisted we take $20 to help feed them. We protested, but she insisted. We finally took it and passed it on... So, yes, there are angels in our mist.

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    1. Dear Rian, how truly wonderful of you to care for the feral cats. It's also wonderful when others see the need and help out. So many angels in our midst. We need to be on the lookout for the good of heart instead--as I often to when watching the evening news--simply let go of hope and feel the tinge of despair. Peace.

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  4. What a wonderful story! From the first "Mam" I was laughing non-stop to the end and I'm still smiling. What a sweet young man and a perfect story to share during the troubled times we find ourselves living in.

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    1. Dear Jean, it was a wonderful thing to happen. That young man knows what's important in life. And yes, we are living in such troubled times. As I commented to Sue, we need to hold onto and embrace and pass on our belief in hope. Peace.

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  5. Thank you so much for the shout out Dee and I am glad to see you are posting such a sweet story. Ok I laughed at cat food sandwiches but I just love that young man. Somewhere is a mother so darn proud of him she is bursting. With the headlines today,stories like this give us hope. Thank you.

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    1. Dear Patti, thanks for your posting, which was the catalyst for this one. And yes, I so agree, his mom must be so proud. I hope he told her what had occurred at Price Chopper. Peace.

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  6. What a lovely story. I have bought food for people myself, many times. It breaks my heart when someone asks me if I could buy them some bread. Of course, I always fill the shopping bag with a lot more than just that. I can't even imagine what it's like to not have food for the day and how humiliating it must be to have to ask someone for it... I've had a homeless man thanking me for a sandwich with tears in his eyes, telling me it's the first food he's had in days...

    It's so nice that you instantly had a reply with other options for him to help those in need.

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    1. Dear Baiba, I am so proud of you. I hope you are proud of yourself. Generosity toward others brings happiness to us So I trust that you realize that you are bringing not only happiness to others with your generosity but also deepening that wellspring of compassion that seems so much a part of the wonderful person you are. Peace and have a wonderfully surprising new year.

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  7. That is a wonderful story, Dee. I am sure that young man did just what you asked. I also loved your answer to that not-so-nice acquaintance.

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    1. Dear Arleen, the story is one I cherish. As we used to say, "it warms the cockles of my heart." And yes, I'm sure he gave money to help others just as he said he would.

      As to my answer to the person who really wanted me to dress "normally," I simply don't have time anymore and haven't had time maybe twenty years to be concerned about what others think of me. Here I am. "Take me as I am or simply walk away" has become sort of a mantra. Peace.

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  8. Oh, my goodness. He really thought you were going to eat kitty chow sandwiches! I like that you were able to sort of redirect his goodwill toward a charitable institution.

    Happy New Year, Dee!x

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    1. Dear Bea, yes, he did. I've read stories of people who have so little money that they do each cat food. That happening here in this richest of countries is, to me, immoral. It's a tragedy. But I'm telling you that the way I was dressed surely led to his thinking that all I could afford in terms of food was bread and canned cat food! Peace and happy 2020!

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  9. A funny and heart-warming story, at the same time. Such a kind and generous young man, but the old saying, “You can’t judge a book by its cover” comes to mind.

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    1. Dear Cynthia, that old saying can be true, but I suspect from the body language and the facial expressions of this young man that I could judge the book by its cover!

      I hope all is going well with your recuperation and that the horrific pain has subsided. I think of you often as I remember what my last 8 weeks have been. But I'm so much better now and I hope soon you will be also. Peace.

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  10. That is the best story, and you tell it so well. I am envisioning you in a "homeless" costume and having the conversation with that young man. I have also heard of the elderly or really poor living off cat food. So sad! Rick and I have often helped someone in line ahead of us pay for something if they appear short of cash or their cash cards don't work due to insufficient funds. One day, I was at Aldi's and a young mother and her son were buying groceries. She had exactly $25 dollars cash to spend, and after every couple of items,she asked the cashier for the total. When she reached just under $25, she told her young son "sorry hon, we have to put the pickles back." He didn't grumble or throw a tantrum. You should have seen the look on that little boy's face when I handed him the jar of pickles. In the 21st century, in America, who would ever think a jar of dill pickles would make a little boy so giddy?! Joy to you Dee!

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    1. Dear Lynda, there's so much about our culture right now that puzzles me--and that in a country this rich, children and vulnerable seniors go hungry seems incomprehensible to me. I so wish we had a party system in government that would break through he partisanship that's derailing everything. There's a column in the NYTimes today that talks about that. Peace.

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    2. Dee, it really is like our world is upside down.

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    3. Dear Sandi, it appears that way to me sometimes too. I'm trying to practice the virtue of hope. Peace.

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    1. Dear Susan, yes, I truly think he would do what he said and give to someone else! Peace.

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    1. Dear Sandi, true. We do meet them unawares. Peace.

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  13. That was such a wonderful feel good story!

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    1. Dear Laurie, I'm so glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for stopping by. Peace.

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  14. it was our loss if you have not shared this most beautiful tale ever dear Dee !

    it makes my heart beat normally when i know there still exist goodness and good people in this world :)

    YOU ARE PRECIOUS MY FRIEND!

    your carelessness for look oh i can relate to it so strongly ,how strange that just like you either i was looked down by wearing rough simple dress and wearing no make up which means simply that 'i had (have) no interest what opposite gender thinks of me :)
    i start to wear little bit of lipstick and eye liner as my husband was too pressing to see me with look and now i wear only in ceremonies as i think among all well painted faces i must not look different so people take notice of me which i love most is being ignored in public events :)so i can observe rest peacefully

    this young guy must have been blessed with angle's heart :)
    hugs! blessings to your days my dear friend and may this year bring more peace joy and success!

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    1. Dear Baili, as the photographs of the wedding in your latest posting show, you need no make-up. Your face with its welcoming smile is beautiful. Peace.

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  15. Dress in what you like and is comfortable. Many, many years ago Hugh and I went shopping one Friday night, cold, wet, and heavy rain poring down.I wore sturdy brown lace up shoes, and a yellow oilskin raincoat., I was 36 or so. We went into the clockmaker and jewellery shop to buy a "Grandmother Clock" for our new home. I asked if there were any and the young man looked me up and down and said in a condescending tone, " we have that one on the wall BUT it is $39.95"!!! This was at least 43 years ago. I assumed he thought we would be stretching the coffers to spend even that much. We walked to another jewellery shop and found the beautiful grandmother clock we still have today. So glad you find clothes that are comfy, and a generous young man, faith in another's generosity, and like all goodness, if it is passed on, we all benefit. XXX from down in NZ.

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  16. Dear Nancy, I so agree with you that when we pass on the goodness others do for us and to us, then we continue to benefit and the Universe becomes the Oneness that speaks to me of the unity between all creation. Peace.

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