I’m heading out of town tomorrow for a few days and have been a little preoccupied with how I’m going to do with my giveaways. In a different city and culture, will I still be able to follow my instincts? Granted, it’s not like I’m going to Djibouti, but San Francisco is a different world.

I had to stop at the store after work today. I got out of the car and was crossing the parking lot when I saw a woman struggling with her empty shopping cart. I always hate taking the cart back to the repository after loading my groceries in the car, so I decided to be really nice and offer to take her cart back for her. I was feeling kind of pleased with myself, thinking how this project is making me into such a nice person. Then I couldn’t find the place where you put the carts and I started to get annoyed. Ah! No wonder! Some idiot had parked right in front of it, blocking the whole thing. A couple of other shoppers were kind of circling around, trying to figure out how to put their carts away. Jeez. Some people!

It was getting dark but I could see well enough to realize that the offending vehicle looked vaguely familiar. Wait. Is that…? Doh! I was the one who was blocking everyone from putting their carts away. Wow. I hate that.

I fixed the problem as quickly as I could and headed into the store. I had the C-note in my pocket and just cruised the aisles for a while. There were a lot of people inside, mostly in ones and twos. I walked slowly and (I imagined) nonchalantly past the produce, the crackers, the peanut butter and the salad dressing. Heading into the frozen food aisle I saw a young woman pushing a little girl in a stroller. She was wearing tiny shorts that barely covered her bottom and said “Senior” across the back. High school? Possible, but she looked older. With the two of them was a slightly rounder version of the young woman. She had stopped pushing their shopping cart and was looking at the ice cream. “Klondike bars?”, I heard her ask. The cart was piled with chips, soda and frozen chicken. Something drew me to them.

“Excuse me”, I said to the woman with the cart. “Can I talk with you for a minute?” “Okaaayy”, she said, visibly dubious. She maneuvered her cart around in front of her so it was between the two of us. “What’s it about?” “Is this your family?”, I asked. “Yes”, she said. “These are my daughters.” She looked concerned, and mildly frightened. I saw the two girls watching me. “They’re beautiful”, I offered. I smiled, trying to put them all at ease. The older girl grinned at me and did a gracious little curtsey. I told the mom what I was doing and that I wanted to pass along a gift. Her face went slack and I handed her the $100 bill.

The woman’s hand flew up to her mouth and she burst into tears. In one fluid motion she came out from behind her shopping cart and gave me a huge hug. “God is so good!” She was crying hard. There was a story here, and lots of hurt. Her older daughter was crying, too. Then the woman said, “Your mother must have been a beautiful person.” “Yes”, I agreed. “She was.”

That was it. We didn’t talk long before I went on my way. The two women were still standing there with tears in their eyes when I turned into the next aisle.

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