Friday, December 23, 2011

The Gift of a Stranger

Someone - who I don't know - has become the Christmas angel to our family today and will be the heroine of our family history stories.

Today I loaded up the three youngest boys and headed into town to get groceries.  I went into our nearby town of Wayland hoping to find some great fruit.

For Christmas every year I try to make something extra special for dinner and this year I was determined to have a big fruit salad.  It being Christmas time, fruit is through the roof in price and I had made out very specific list of only the items we NEEDED for the next three days of festivities.

There were some basics we needed but mostly it was all fun food we don't normally buy (soda, water chestnuts for a family appetizer, bacon for breakfast...).  The boys were being great helping me find things and not asking for all the other things that looked good (to boys, nearly all food looks good) and so I had let them each get a donut. They were thrilled, donuts are a big deal.

Making sure I had everything on my list and being thankful I found it all and kept to the list, I went to check out.  Amazingly, there was no one even to wait behind and we unloaded the full cart.

I watched the total add and add.  This was going to be expensive.

A lady came up behind me and got a divider out to begin putting up her few groceries.  I made little small talk with the cashier (Yes, these are all my boys.  No, one more isn't with us (he was on a special Christmas run with his Daddy).  Yes, all boys.).  I told her this was our last stop and we were headed home to enjoy Christmas.

The woman next to me in line seemed to be standing exceptionally close to me.  There was no one behind her but she seemed to be really close to us, just the same.  Not annoyingly, just enough to notice.

The bill was over 200 dollars.

I dug out the cash I had set aside for the groceries, wondering what I had to add to the 2 one hundred dollar bills I had in my hand when the woman next to me suddenly grabbed me in a hug.

Think about that.

A stranger just hugged me.

And then she began to whisper in my ear.

Because I was in shock at first of what she was doing, I can only paraphrase what she said.  But it was basically this...

"Please don't make a scene but please put your cash away 
and let me pay for your groceries.
I went to pay a layaway off and it was already taken care of so I want to do this for you.
You just take the groceries home and have a wonderful Christmas with your boys
and Pay It Forward yourself."

I began to cry.

She scooted in front of me and swiped her card.

I think the cashier's jaw dropped.

I hugged her again and thanked her.

I hugged her another time as I cried.

"Please," she whispered, "don't make a scene."

So I nodded and said, "Thank you."

The cashier handed me the receipt.  Her voice was halted as she brokenly said, "Have a Merry Christmas."

I hugged the lady again, thanked her and she told me "Merry Christmas."

S2 wanted to know why I was crying and hugging a stranger.

I got in the suburban and posted it on facebook from my phone.  Late tonight I seen the 50 some comments.

Later today, as I was still tearing up over the incident, I found the receipt.  It was for $210 and some change.  At first I had posted it was $225, guessing what the total had been because, honestly, that moment was a bit of a blur.

At various times today, as the boys and I made and frosted Christmas cookies, they would say, "That was sooooo nice of that lady.  You really didn't know her, Moma?"

I really did not.  I really do not think I could pick her out of a line up.

As we bowed our heads to pray for dinner of hotdogs and fried potatoes...bought for us by a stranger...Jake asked a special blessing upon this woman.

We talked again what a gift she had given us.

I don't even begin to know how to Pay if Forward.

We did nothing.  I went to the store for groceries.  I stood in line.  And someone just bestowed upon us a gift.

Not much unlike the reason we celebrate Christmas.

Christ came to earth to save us.  He gives us a gift, offered it to us to take - that gift of Eternal Life, the gift of a Savior - all we have to do is accept.

And be forever changed and blown away by the gift of it.

John 3:16

New International Version (NIV)

 16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Merry Christmas everyone!!!!

Please, find a way to Pay It Forward.
Not just at Christmas but any day.
I can tell you, the gift of it is amazing.


Becca @ My Crazy Good Life said...

I can tell you that you already pay it forward. You do nice things for neighbors. You make people happy every day. I think that you are more deserving of this than anyone else I know, and the kindness this woman has spread has gone much further than just you.
I am SO happy that she found you. Know that paying it forward doesn't have to be a huge act, but little things. The things you do by being you.

I love you, friend.

Karen said...

I was so excited to see you blogged this story. I saw your post on Facebook & knew I wanted to hear the details. What a wonderful way to enter into Christmas!

Leah said...

I heard about it yesterday from Becca and then another friend has shared your post on FB today and I'm crying as I read it...what a wonderful gesture!

About a year ago I was grocery shopping and the gal in front of me had to take a few items out of her cart because there was not enough money on her food stamps debit card to pay for everything. My first instinct was to run up and swipe my card and buy her groceries...But, we were in a much tighter financial situation at the time and my practicality got the best of me so I sat there and watched, sadly as she strategically chose which items to keep and which to leave behind. I have regretted my decision not to help her ever since...

So now I'm inspired and I'm waiting for the right opportunity to practice a random act of kindness for someone in my community!

Happy Holidays to you and your Boys!

Alaina Frederick of Dinker and Giggles said...

That is well beautiful. Back when my husband and I had money we went out to eat on a Father's day. I noticed the family at the table diagonal from us had a really really beat up stroller and the kids had ordered a lot but the parents were eating just really simple small meals.

I went and spoke to the manager and paid for their meal. As we were loading in the van they walked out and the woman was saying "I can't believe someone paid for our food. Do you want to go and get some groceries?"

It's a great feeling and one that helps get me through days like we have been having lately and I can guarantee that this blessed angel of yours was on a high for a long time.

You will know when the time is right to pay that deed forward. It will be a feeling in your heart that you will not be able to quiet no matter how loudly the boys are screaming around you.

I'm so happy you had a wonderfully blessed Christmas and I pray that you have a equally amazing new year :)

Alaina Frederick of Dinker and Giggles said...

@Leah -- I have been that person in the last few months. It really sucks having to try and figure out what to leave and what to get.

I have also been in your shoes wanting to help but then looking at my own kids knowing that if I help we will be in that same situation as she is.

For you the timing wasn't right but the Lord will cross your path again with one in need and you'll have that choice again... and it will feel amazing and be even more of a blessing.

Alison Hodgson said...

What made me cry when I read it on FB, and then again here was, "Don't make a scene." The simple desire to do something generous, as secretly as she could undoes me every time.

Anonymous said...

A.Mazing. I'm blown away. Love that. Thank you for sharing!