By the time we made it to the check-out, our cart felt rather heavy. I had filled it full of party food for my daughter’s Cinderella birthday party–and all the relatives who would be joining us to celebrate her turning three.
In my joy, I hadn’t realized how expensive it was going to be. After all, we were shopping at Aldi’s! Everything is like $2. (Right?)
So we were getting everything we needed for fruit and veggie trays, and sandwiches, snacks, goodies, and best of all–the homeade buttercream “glass slipper” cake, that we were really looking forward to making together.
My almost 3-year-old was handing me the items that I had stashed around where she was sitting in the cart, and I was putting them on the checkout counter. But as I began to estimate the cost in my head–I had a panic moment.
“Oh no..I’m spending too much,” I thought, “What can we do without?”
I quickly grabbed as many “non-essential” items as I could from our cart and handed them to the cashier, “I’m really sorry, but we’re actually not going to get these today.” Among them were a few goodies, my flavored creamer, and Selah’s animal crackers. She smiled and took them from me with a nod.
“Mom, why can’t we buy the animal crackers?” Selah asked me.
“Sorry, honey, but Mommy found too many other things today. We’ll get them another time.”
As soon as the cashier checked us out, Selah exclaimed, “Mommy, I have to go potty!”
So, I pushed my cart off to the side where there were other customers bagging up their items, “the Aldi’s way.” Among them, an Amish family, who were all in the ladies’ bathroom (yes, men included) the first time I was going to take Selah potty at the beginning of our grocery shopping trip. And I also noticed a “shady” looking couple near my cart bagging up their groceries. As I abandoned my cart and whisked my daughter away to go potty, I actually had this thought, “I really hope no one steals anything from our cart.”
So I could have never imagined what happened next.
In the Ladies’ Room, I kept telling Selah to hurry up–so we could get back to our stranded-already-been-paid-for-cart. I even told her we weren’t washing our hands today, and instead smeared some gingerbread scented Purell hand sanitizer on her–so I could get back to our cart. (You know, the one I imagined the riff-raff wildly looting while I was in the bathroom?)
But before I could make it to my cart, the cashier that checked us out stopped me. “Ma’am,” she said. “I wanted to let you know…” (Oh no, here it comes, I thought. Someone did steal something from my cart!)
“The woman behind you,” she started, “Paid for the groceries you told me to put back, and she put them in your cart for you.”
“What? Are you serious??” I asked her, looking around, wild-eyed, my hand finding my heart.
“She just left though, so you wouldn’t be able to thank her. I guess, it’s kind of like a pay it forward thing,” she said with a smile.
I looked in my cart, and sure enough there were the “non-essential” snacks, the flavored creamer, and Selah’s animal crackers.
Oh my heart.
I wanted to cry–to sob. To weep openly for the kindness that had been done to me. I wanted to fall to my knees on that dirty Aldi’s floor.
I wanted to repent for all my judgement–the secret kind that lives in my head.
Because I imagined someone stealing from my cart–not putting more into it.
I could barely keep it together. And as I began to bag up my groceries that day, “the Aldi’s way,” in my re-usable shopping bags, my eyes began to blur with tears–of thanks.
I wish I could have hugged her–not because we needed the groceries–but just because she was so kind. So…
Dear Woman Behind Me At Aldi’s,
If you should ever read this,
Whoever you are, wherever you are, thank you.
Thank you for your kindness to me.
We are not poor, and you didn’t need to buy those extra groceries for us, the “frivolities” that come with a three-year-old’s birthday party.
But you did.
And you showed me something powerful,
You showed me the power of being kind. And brave. And good.
And the world needs more people like you.
You reminded me that not all people are as bad as I think they are. Some are really, really good.
I had expected someone to steal something from my cart, but you did the opposite–you filled it with good things.
I expected a curse, and you gave me a blessing.
You were the blessing.
And you reminded me of the power of goodness. And the love of God. Because somehow, through your kindness to fill my cart–I felt his love. And as I drove home that day with tears in my eyes, and a big lump in my throat, I felt Him holding me. I felt Him loving me.
Because I didn’t think He cared about animal crackers.
Or Cinderella parties.
But He does.
He cares about all His children. He cares that they feel His love.
And you make me want to let someone else feel His love, in the way you have let me feel it.
Because, I hadn’t realized the power of kindness–until today.
And, I’ve always been afraid to do what you have done for me today.
Because, I’m always afraid to offend someone.
But being on the other end of it, being the recipient of kindness–I feel no offense whatsover. Only deep gratitude.
And the extravagance of kindess.
And the depth of His love.
I’m a writer–and sometimes I only know how to love with my words. But you’ve reminded me–sometimes this world needs more than words.
To feel His love.
To taste it.
Sometimes they need action. Sometimes they need something tangible.
Sometimes they need people who will be brave enough to act,
to actually do something.
To show them love.
Like you did for me.
So thank you, for stepping out, in risk, and doing it.
You made a little girl’s Cinderella party a little more magical.
And her mom’s heart a little more tender, and soft.
P.S. Selah was very happy to see the Animal Crackers return to us.