In which I hug a complete stranger in the candy section of my friendly neighborhood Wal-mart store

by Megan on April 20, 2009

in Theology for Ordinary Life

Being a homeschool mom tends to imply that I love being with my kids a lot. And I do…except for those occasions when I don’t. Grocery stores fit into this category – rows and rows of mass-produced consumerism turns four otherwise fairly-behaved young girls into, well, not quite fairly-behaved.

It could also be me – I get pretty single focused when I’m shopping (I don’t like going into the chain stuff-marts at all) and try to get what’s on my list – nothing more than what’s on my list – as quickly as possible. I must have had “strained mother” written all over me today, though, because while in the candy aisle picking up Symphony bars to make the world’s best brownies ever, my kids started their predictable “can we have a candy bar” routine.

I was doing my best “tune them out” routine while comparing sizes and prices and blood pressure levels when a woman I’ve never met before smiled at us. This act in and of itself is blog-worthy – families like mine don’t get smiled at very often when we’re in grocery stores; instead, we get sighed at sometimes or asked “Why aren’t you in school today?” other times.

Not today. Today this woman smiled at me and handed me a package of candy.

“Can I buy this for your kids?”

“Excuse me? I’m sorry, what did you say?”

“Oh, they don’t have to have this one – there are a bunch there all for the same price. I’d just like to buy them a little treat. Of course, if you don’t want them to have any candy that’s perfectly fine.”

“Oh, no. It’s not that at all. You’ve just really surprised me. People aren’t usually kind to us in these stores. I’m just really surprised.”

“I have three grandchildren I don’t get to see very often. I’d like to do this for you.”

She then pulled out four one dollar bills and handed them to me. My girls, who before this interaction weren’t really being all that crazy (but were nonetheless driving me that way) looked at her with wide open eyes. They couldn’t believe it either. They thanked her profusely and then went to the task of making their selections.

I turned back to the woman again just before she pushed her cart down the aisle and gave her a hug. This isn’t really like me either (I have some pretty significant personal space issues), but I was just so taken by her simple act of kindness that I hugged her. She laughed, we both smiled, and the ending of my shopping trip was completely changed.

Truly, the tongue has the power of life and death. That woman in Wal-mart gave me life today…and she did it for only $4.

kristen April 20, 2009 at 4:29 pm

What a lovely interaction. I love when God sends us glimpses of grace like that!

B April 20, 2009 at 4:52 pm

Oh, thanks for sharing that today. What a special story. B. PS – totally understand the personal space issues. :-)

Cath April 20, 2009 at 4:58 pm

How special. I want to hug her, too.

Tricia Agan April 20, 2009 at 7:53 pm

Wow – that was so kind. How much encouragement we can give with the littlest gesture!
(Once I was in the grocery store, and I had the strained-mom look about me, I’m sure… and this dear lady smiled at me, and said “Enjoy it while you can – my youngest just left for college…” – I suddenly became thankful for my little “distractions” I had along with me…)

susan April 20, 2009 at 10:23 pm

I love this. Thank you for sharing that kind of moment with us. It just doesn’t take that much to encourage people. Thanks for the reminder!

Mary Ostyn April 20, 2009 at 10:38 pm

Awesome! Thanks for sharing that!
Mary, who also has personal space issues but who feels warm and fuzzy after reading this post

Megan April 20, 2009 at 11:41 pm

You all know what, she came up to me again when I was checking out with a bag of peanuts she bought for herself for a snack in the store. She had taken one bite and they didn’t settle well with her teeth and would we please take them too?
Four bags of candy and some kettle-roasted ranch flavored peanuts. Score! *grin*

martha68 April 21, 2009 at 2:33 am

wow! how great is that. i can think of a few times in my life a response like that woman’s would have shocked my socks off! as much as i enjoy being around people, it is difficult for me to go up and hug someone…especially a stranger. but an act like that might have done it. i’m with you megan. the concentration i needed for a grocery store never mixed with my kids making demands of me at the same time. m

Luke Holzmann April 21, 2009 at 8:49 am

That is good stuff.

Sheila April 21, 2009 at 9:23 am

You know, part of this story is that you had the grace to accept what she offered. Your ability to do this is what made both yours and her day. God bless you!

caron April 21, 2009 at 11:14 am

oh man, i love this. so glad megan!

Christy April 21, 2009 at 12:06 pm

Awesome! What an encouragement. Thanks for sharing.

gretchen from lifenut April 21, 2009 at 6:36 pm

Awesome, and so encouraging. A kind word or gesture is more powerful than we realize.
Also? Recipe. Any brownie recipe that calls for a Symphony bar must be shared.

Monica April 22, 2009 at 5:50 am

I love this story, Megan ~ I am with you about not liking to go into that kind of store and it does change my littles into something aggravating sometimes. I also get the looks like why do you have so many young children? :)
But, thank you for the reminder of the power of a smile and a simple yet kind gesture.
I’m with Gretchen above hoping that you’ll share the recipe!

Michelle- This One's for the Girls April 22, 2009 at 1:36 pm

So sweet. Made me tear up…

Megan April 22, 2009 at 2:42 pm

I just sent this to Gretchen, but, okay, the rest of you can be in on the big secret:
Ha! My recipe is embarrassingly simple. Take any box brownie mix. Mix according to directions. Pour half in the pan, layer the Symphony bar on top (usually takes 1.5 which leaves .5 for personal consumption, ahem), pour the other half on top and bake. You want the insides a little soft.
Enjoy! (And don’t tell purists my secret, por favor).

RT April 22, 2009 at 7:00 pm

Oh wow. I love this story. It made me all teary–and made me want to be like that lady. God bless her!
(Mmm. Symphony bar brownies!)

Antique Mommy April 23, 2009 at 10:16 pm

I love that story. Humanity when it works properly.

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