Looking back over the past year, I have much to be thankful for: my husband, my children, my health, my new friends, my home in Houston and the ability to embark on a new career writing. But a recent incident in the grocery store line the other day actually brought my thankfulness for my life home to me in a way that I never would have guessed.
We have all done it: delayed getting a birthday present until the last minute. I did that on this particular day just minutes before a birthday party. I entered Walmart with my two young daughters hoping that I could quickly purchase a gift, get my children out of there before they started asking me for things and still make it in time for the party.
As I get into what I considered the shortest line, I see that there was a problem with ringing up the groceries in front of me. As I roll my eyes impatiently, wrapped up in my own little world, I see that the young woman is purchasing diapers, milk, formula, baby food and Crayola fingerpaints. After a discussion with the cashier, she says, “Take the baby food off then and I will just take these.” As the cashier is voiding the purchase and re-ringing she gets on her cell phone (yes it is an inexpensive model) and with tears in her eyes she calls someone and says, “Can you do me a big favor? Can you find the telephone number to the WIC office? They won’t let me buy baby food. I got the formula. The food will just have to wait.” She flips the phone closed and hangs up.
I lean forward and asked the cashier how much the baby food is (it’s been a few years) and the cashier says, “Thirty cents each, about $4 total.” I say, “Please ring it up and I’ll get it for her.”
I admit, this cashier is quick and gets it done fast. She then calls out to the woman as she was leaving, “Miss, you forgot something.” She turns and hands her the bag of baby food. At her questioning look, the cashier nods her head at me. She starts to cry, “Oh no, you shouldn’t. Really, give me your address and I will pay you back. It’s too nice of you.”
I tell her, “Please just take it and take care of your baby.” She asks me, “Why would you do this for a stranger?” And I reply, “I have been there done that. I have been exactly where you are standing right now, wondering where my child’s baby food or formula would come from and I have been in the position where $4 can make all the difference in the world.” She hugs me, wipes a tear from her face and walks off.
You may ask me the same question: “Why would I do this?” Honestly, it was not only that I have been in her position, but the clincher was the Crayola fingerpaints. As a mom I know how important it is to not only feed our children but to feed our children with creativity and our attention. A mom buying fingerpaints is going to be spending that time with her child, and the last thing she needs to be worried about it is where that child’s next meal will come from.
So, today, if you ask me what I am thankful for, I would have to say, “fingerpaints.” Because looking at those fingerpaints touched me in a way I haven’t been touched in a long time and brought home to me not only the importance of caring for my children, and caring for others, but a strong feeling of thankfulness that I can now care for them in a way I never could before.