Shopping alone is a luxury, isn’t it?
I didn’t really appreciate the novelty of it before I had kids.
But just the act of going to the store without a single child in tow is just downright bliss.
Last Sunday, I promised Zoe and Zion we would make Christmas cookies. I got up, wrote my blog, and went to the grocery store.
And as I was loading tons of flour, sugar and candy into my cart for the baking festivities, I noticed a young mother hurrying through the aisles. She was wearing yoga pants, her hair was in a half bun, and she looked as though she hadn’t slept in 3 days.
In short, she looked just like me.
She had two toddlers with her.
Those kids were, well….kids.
They were all over the place, asking for everything in sight, putting things into her cart faster than she could pull them out.
But what struck me, is that she wasn’t screaming. Or making idle threats. Or even being terse.
At one point I heard her say, “Listen here mister, go put those cookies back or I’m gonna get that belly!”
Was that some sort of threat?
I must say, I was intrigued. I damn near grabbed those cookies and took off running just to see if she would get my belly.
So as I rounded the last aisle to load up on butter and eggs, I started adding up my items in my head.
$50 for baking supplies? Yikes.
Yet I justified it because they were gifts. And I knew the joy it was going to bring my kids when I got home.
When I got up to the register, that young mama and her two toddlers were checking out. The mom looked up and smiled at me, I smiled back.
A thousand thoughts went through my mind.
I wonder if she is a single mom.
I wonder if those kids will ever know what a gift it is to have a mother like that.
I have a mother like that. She is an incredible gift.
And as I stood there waxing poetic about moms and their sacrifices, (GAWD I am becoming sappy these days) I overheard the cashier say “I’m sorry ma’am, but we don’t take credit cards, only debit.”
The young mom looked panicked. She said “I don’t know my PIN number.” She dug furiously through her purse to find another form of payment. When she found none, she said she needed to call her bank. The cashier said she would suspend her transaction while she called.
I looked at her cart.
I looked at my cart…
While the cashier was ringing up my items, I watched that young mom on her phone. Clearly she wasn’t going to reach anyone at the bank. It was Sunday.
The cashier could see me watching the little family.
I looked at her, and I knew she knew what I was thinking.
I simply said, “How much?”
She smiled and said “$144.82.”
Omg. Is it even possible to spend that much at Aldi? I don’t have that kind of money to spend on groceries for someone else.
And then that annoying little voice inside me said “Yes you do. You’re spending a crapload of money for cookies.”
Shut up, little voice!
I picked up my phone, and looked at my online bank accounts.
I had enough to pay for both.
Thoughts of panic rushed through my head.
But what if I don’t have enough to get through the month? What if something unexpected happens?
Then I realized how many people have given to my Zion this year. What if they had thought the same way?
I decided right then to pay her bill.
At that exact moment, I heard the kids scream “GRANDMA!” And I turned around and saw that young woman’s mother come walking through the front door. Apparently the young lady had called her mother instead of calling the bank.
“What luck that I was in the area!” the grandma said to her daughter, and she walked over and hugged her grandbabies. She hurried to the cashier and handed over her bank card.
I have to admit, I was both touched and a little disappointed.
As I walked out to my car, I was mentally beating myself up a bit.
You shouldn’t have hesitated!
You missed an opportunity to pay it forward!
You should have tackled grandma and paid anyway!
After I had loaded up my car, I turned to return my cart.
The young mother was standing there, looking directly at me with a tearful smile.
“The cashier told me that you were going to pay for our groceries,” she said.
I tried my best to look humble. “I’ve been there.”
We stood in awkward silence for a moment. I really thought she was going to hug me. But we just exchanged holiday niceties, and said goodbye.
And what I realized in that moment, is that I don’t always have to save the day.
Maybe the lesson here was just being willing to let go of money that was never really mine in the first place.