This is a story about something that happened awhile back. But it’s stuck with me and since this blog is about my thoughts I decided it was time to revisit the past.
I was standing in line at the grocery behind a young woman that had one small child in the cart and another by the hand trying to pay for her groceries. She had milk, bread, a package of cheese slices, a small bag with three apples and a small bag of bologna. She was holding her wallet with one hand trying to maneuver the money out while keeping the two kids in check. (Been there done that…well 25 years ago, but as with most memories, not so long.)
The total came to $14.36.
The woman produced a five and six ones.
“Sorry,” she glanced at the cashier. “I need to put something back.”
She paused looking at her purchases.
“Put back the Bologna.”
“$11.36,” the cashier said.
The woman scrounged around in her purse, looking for change.
“Here,” I handed the woman a five. “Get the bologna.”
“No, that’s okay.”
“No really. Take it. I’ve had a bad day and helping you might just be the thing I need to turn it around.”
And this is where the story really starts.
“Thank you.” She paid for the groceries and turned to me. “Are you from the church or something?”
“No.” I didn’t understand the question.
“I go to …” she said and named a mega church in our area.
“Actually I don’t belong to any church. Let’s just say the church and I had a falling out a few years ago and I choose to believe what I want without the confines of four walls.”
“Oh,” she stammered, “well thank you anyway.”
Thank you anyway. Those words stick with me to this day. As if I wasn’t to be thanked as a person trying to do the right thing. If she’d been through my morning, maybe she would have understood why I choose to help someone when I could.
My day started with a call that the 16-year-old cancer patient I was working with had taken a turn for the worst. I’ll call her Jenny.
Jenny was given up by her parents at the age of twelve when she was diagnosed with cancer. The parents didn’t have insurance and the state would see to the medical expenses. By sixteen she was living in a group home. I’d tried to help her as much as I could, but she was a typical teenager and was sporadic at showing up for appointments.
A week before the day at the grocery, Jenny and her 17-year-old boyfriend, decided to get married. It wouldn’t be a legal marriage, just one preformed by the hospital clergy, for a young woman dying from cancer. She asked if I would be a witness. Again a witness to the marriage was not necessary, but who among us would argue? So I went over. She was hooked up to so many tubes and wires we stood in the doorway. She wore a white knitted cap over her smooth head. Tough nurses that had seen horrendous things in the pediatric cancer ward were crying in the hallway.
A week later, Jenny died.
I had left work, crying, as I usually did when we lost a child, but needed to stop at the grocery on my way home from work. There I ran into a young woman that had judged my help.
If I was nice, I must be religious. I must attend church.
Honestly, it just felt good to be able to help someone when my day had been spent feeling so inadequate, so helpless.
I sat in the parking lot trying to make sense of my feelings after the episode in the grocery. I came away with an even stronger belief that you should do the right thing even though you may be judged.
Good people, do good things, period.