I can sometimes be oblivious to things around me. I get preoccupied rushing through the work day, through errands, through household chores. Had it not been the Christmas season, I imagine what happened at Target last weekend would simply have annoyed me and caused me to think harsh thoughts. Something else happened instead.
With less than a week until Christmas Day my local Target was packed with shoppers. I was picking up a few last minute Christmas items as well as doing my weekly cleaningsupplytoothpastedeoderantziplockbagdogfood type shopping. When I finished my list I had quite a full cart and carefully surveyed the check-out lanes trying to find the one that seemed would have the shortest wait.
I got in line behind a mother and her (I’m guessing here) seven-year-old daughter. They had only one bag full of purchases and appeared to be checking out as I began to place the items from my cart on the conveyor belt.
In that peripheral way you notice things, I realized the woman was having trouble using her debit card. My immediate reaction was “Well that’s just great, I wonder how long THIS is going to take!” Then I noticed the girl. She was standing very still, eyes looking at the floor, resigned in a way that told me this type of thing had happened before.
I continued unloading my cart, but looking at these two people I could see they just had …less than. They were not dirty or disheveled, just…poor. I can’t describe it, but I knew they were facing hard times.
The little girl, and this is what gets me, THE LITTLE GIRL, interrupted her mother’s conversation with the cashier to say couldn’t they let me check out. The cashier voided the woman's transaction and started scanning mine.
By now the manager had come over, and the mother was insisting that the debit card ABSOLUTELY had money left on it, that the credit card machine must not be functioning correctly. The manager explained he thought the machine was operational. This conversation went on the entire time my items were being scanned. And the little girl went back to standing so.very.still. I felt in my heart that there would not be a positive resolution to the situation; that they would leave without their intended purchases.
As the cashier rang up the last of my purchases I quietly asked if she would add their items to my bill. The cashier raised her eyebrows at me and I simply said "Just do it". The cashier did as I asked; I swiped my card, entered my PIN and started to leave. The little girl pulled at her mother’s sleeve and said “Mama, that lady just paid for our stuff!” I paused, smiled at her and said “Merry Christmas” and rolled my cart out to the car.
The woman never paused in her conversation. She didn’t look at me and I didn’t try to say anything to her. I had no desire to make what was probably an uncomfortable situation worse. I most certainly did not need her thanks.
More importantly, I am not sharing this tale with you for some sorry assed self-promotion, pats on the back or attagirls. And trust me when I tell you the amount of money I spent for the girl and her mother was a FRACTION of my total bill. I have no moral to neatly wrap this story up. I’m sharing this with you because in that moment I felt Christmas in my heart the way one is supposed to feel it. Because I wasn’t oblivious, impatient or self absorbed. And it felt truly great. Pass it on.