Kindness Discovered – on a Toilet Paper Run

“Stay in the car, Sweetie, while I go into the store and see if I can find some toilet paper.”

After a while, the shelter in place order, which is exactly what we need to do, can make you a little antsy to get out.  My wife, who had open-heart surgery five years ago and is in the high-risk category for the coronavirus, was riding with me while I went to pick up necessities at the grocery store.  She would be the keeper of the sanitary wipe we placed in a zip lock baggie so that every time I reentered the car, I could wipe the possible germs off of my hands.  At the first store, our local Publix, I was able to obtain most of the items on our list.  So, I headed to the family-owned grocery store just across the street for items not available at the first establishment.  Unfortunately, they did not have any of the items either.  As I exited the store, I noticed an employee from the dollar store standing outside smoking.

“Excuse me.  Could you save me some steps and tell me if you have any toilet paper?”

“Sorry, we are out,” came the reply.  I thanked her and returned to the car.

“We will go home with the stuff we have so we can get the foods that need to go in the refrigerator put up and then we will head to Walmart,” I told Hazel as I got back in the car.  The look on her face told me she was enjoying the ride so that it would be no problem.

Items wiped down and put away – hands washed – fresh sanitary wipe in the baggie – time to face the big challenge.  I parked close to the pickup and go spots and told Hazel I would not be gone very long.  I found all the other items I needed to get except for the toilet paper.  I checked out, keeping the appropriate social distance between other customers and quickly exited the store.

“Trader Joe’s is just across the highway – I will run in there to see if they have any TP,” as I slide back behind the steering wheel and began cleaning my hands with the wipe.

Trader Joe’s was a fun experience.  They had blocked the entry such that you had to follow the roped-off path they had set up.  On the sidewalk, six-foot intervals were marked to allow customers to maintain this distance between each other.  You moved forward until you reached the head of the line.  There, you waited for them to clean a shopping cart for you and with a smile, they reminded you to please observe social distancing while in the store.  They even had the appropriate intervals marked on the floor at the check out counters to ensure the safety of the customers.  I decided to get some raisins to go in our morning oatmeal but unfortunately, they too were without the toilet paper I needed to successfully complete my scavenger hunt.

With the raisins safely stowed in the back of my Equinox, I wiped down my hands and gave my traveling companion an aggravated look.

Don’t people know this is a respiratory virus and not a gastrointestinal virus.  There are plenty of Kleenex on the shelves but no toilet paper.  Kroger is at the other end of the shopping center.  This will have to be our last stop.  We have enough to get by for a while but I would like to give it one more try.

By this point, I was frustrated.  The empty shelves – the illogical panic buying.  Since grocery stores are considered essential, if people would go back to their norm grocery shopping habits, this silliness would quickly stop.  I understand the need to “stock up” in case your household has to observe a fourteen-day quarantine but even considering that the carts overflowing with cookies, snacks, soft drinks, and toilet paper are not the answer.  As I guided our chariot through the maze of chaos, I found a parking spot at the very back of the parking lot.  This told me that my chances of success were slim but I had to at least give it a try.

With the determination of Ponce de Leon, I exited the vehicle on my quest for the allusive roll of hygienic happiness.

I was unfamiliar with this store so I was going up and down aisles as quickly as possible in search of my treasure.  Finally, I see the sign – paper products!  I dance past several carts blocking my path – feeling like the knights of old as they eluded dragons to save the fair maiden in distress.  As I enter the aisle, I saw it – white gold – in all its glory – sitting on the shelf as if to say, “Yes, brave knight, victory is yours.”  I quickly looked for a sign limiting my purchase and saw none.  So, I picked up two packs with four rolls each and headed for the next obstacle – the dreaded long checkout lines.

Alas, I was in luck – one line just had one lady in it so I quickly stood at the next “Please stop here” line behind her.  She was arranging her purchases into different groups and I overheard her mention that she was shopping for some older couples in her neighborhood and needed things to be rung up separately.  How kind, I thought to myself, no longer upset with having to wait.  And then it happened.

“Why don’t you check him out first – all he has is toilet paper,” this kind lady said to the cashier.  With that, the cashier reached her arms out to me to take the toilet paper and ring it up.

“Do you have a Kroger card?”  the cashier asked.  I told her that I did not.

“Here, let me put my card number in for you.  Maybe it will save you a few cents,” said the kind lady and with that, she entered the number.

I put my credit card in the machine to pay for my purchase and turned to the kind lady.  “Thank you so much.  You will never know how your kindness has touched me.  Bless you.”

As I walked back to my chariot – white gold in hand – I was feeling uplifted.  Not because I found the toilet paper – but because in all this craziness, I found kindness.


Len Bernat
Len Bernat
LEN is a leader groomed by 20 years of molding and shaping by some of the finest leaders in the United States Marine Corps. Their guidance helped Len realize his full potential as he moved from an enlisted Marine to becoming an Officer of Marines. Len became known for being the leader who could turn any lackluster organization into a strong, functional unit. Upon his retirement, Len worked in several positions before finally starting a second career in governmental procurement. His experience and leadership skills enabled him to be recognized as the 2011 Governmental Procurement Officer of the Year for the Governmental Procurement Association of Georgia and opened doors for him to teach at many of the association’s conferences. Len was also called to the ministry and was ordained at Ashford Memorial Methodist Church in November of 1999. Today, Len is the Pastor of Maxeys Christian Church in Maxeys, Georgia. Len has been married to his wife, Hazel, for 36 years and they have three daughters, three grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren. Grab your copy of Len's new Book – Leadership Matters | Advice From A Career USMC Officer. Using his life experiences as examples, Len takes the eleven principles of leadership and the fourteen traits every leader should possess—which he learned during twenty years in the Marine Corps—and teaches the reader how he was molded and shaped by some of the best leaders the Corps had to offer.

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  1. Interesting; Kindness reincarnated by the Master Storey-teller!

    In these forced 7-Saturday weeks, we can all use a glimmer of hope, and the one you presented, Dear Len Sir, makes a joyful reading.

    Thanks, With Warm Regards and a Prayer


  2. Kindness in these times helps so much! Thanks for sharing your story. I have not shopped for 2 weeks. Planning to do so tomorrow . . . for whatever may be available in one store. Hopefully those wipes you mention!! I do have bleach, and diluted a bunch today to create a clean shower 🙂

  3. Len: Thanks so much for sharing your story.

    Just as a national crisis brings out the worst in some people, it conversely brings out the best in others. This global toilet paper hoarding craze appears to give people at least some semblance of control over something amid a dire situation where everything appears to be spinning out of control. No, it still doesn’t make sense to me. I presume that it’s the herd mentality concept fueled by social media disinformation about product shortages. I don’t agree with it, but that seems to be the psychology of it, at least according to experts I’ve seen on TV.
    Also, I’m glad your TP quest ended with success. I hope you and your wife are well and stay safe. God bless you and your family, kind sir.

    • David – Your kind words and insights to the current situation are truly appreciated. Now, more than any other time, is a time when kindness should be our first reaction. Thanks for joining this discussion.

    • I have been saying this for a long time…. a crisis makes the kind kinder and the nasty, nastier.