He came around the end of the aisle into the area of baking supplies. He looked like a man that if you saw him coming toward you on a narrow sidewalk, you would cross the street to avoid him. He had rumpled clothes, the hems of his pants were frayed, and his hair was a bit long and untidy. Probably a panhandler you would guess. There was an older lady staring at something on the top shelf. She wore a faded print dress with little yellow flowers and her white hair was in a neat bun on the top of her head. She was scarcely five feet tall and somewhat hunched over. She was trying to push her cart while managing her walker but had stopped there and was looking very uncertain.
Before I could do anything, the disheveled man stopped and said, “Mam, can I reach something for you? God gave me a taller body than you and I’m pretty good at reaching high things”. The woman sighed and said, “Oh yes, I need a package of yeast and that can of baking powder”. I watched this scene playing out while pretending to read the ingredients on the various cans of non-stick sprays. As he set his basket down I noticed that he had two cans of Spam (I had seen them earlier on sale 2 for one), two apples, and an 8-ounce block of store brand cheese. He retrieved the needed items as she told him that her 11-year-old grandson was coming over that afternoon. She was going to teach him how to bake a cake and while it baked they would play checkers. “He is such a fine young man”, she added.
She began trying to turn her cart around while maneuvering her walker. The man said, “If you are going to the checkout, I’ll give you a hand with that unwieldy cart, I’m going there too”. I followed along at a discrete distance and when he had her safely at a check out station he mentioned that he had forgotten to buy bread and left. He clearly hadn’t intended to go to the checkout but went there solely to help her.
When I left the store neither of them was in sight. I wondered what their stories were, and where they had gone. I wondered what I would have done if I had met him on a narrow sidewalk. I wondered how many people would stop and help a little old lady struggling with what we would consider a minor routine.
I wondered what would happen to our world if everyone did a kindness as the disheveled man had done?