Once I received a response to a Future Works Gazette request on the theme Your Story Matters, I received the following wonderful story from Dorothy Meyers about an eye-opening encounter at the grocery store. She has graciously given me permission to share her story with you all. I hope you will find it as inspiring as I did in remembering what really matters–what meaningful change can be. Please consider donating to a local food bank or other organization that helps to feed the far-too-many hungry people in our nation.
The Sunday before Thanksgiving my husband, Steven, and I went to a local grocery store for a few last-minute, but by no means necessary items, to include in our holiday food preparations.
In front of me on the checkout line was a woman who had on what probably was her “Sunday best” coat. She was obviously on her way home from church, since there was a bible on top of her handbag in the child seat of her shopping cart. She was somewhat bent over, struggling to walk and using the cart for balance.
Her grocery order was four sweet potatoes, three tomatoes and one zucchini squash. When she got to the cashier, she asked the young man to weigh three of the potatoes (they added up to seventy-six cents), then added the fourth. Did the same with the tomatoes; weighed two then added the third. Finally, she asked him to put it all together. She had a one-dollar bill clutched in one hand and a bunch of change in her other hand. When she looked at the total, she asked the young man to take one of the potatoes out. She counted out all of her money and still was eight cents short. By this time I’m digging into the bottom of my handbag where I toss loose change, like it doesn’t count for anything much. The young man comes up with a nickel and I added my (big deal, huh) three cents. And, for eight cents the woman thanked us profusely. As she was gathering herself up, I whispered to the young man to put the fourth potato on my order and give it to her. That cost all of twenty-seven cents! The woman asked God to bless us both and made her way out of the store.
I was so undone by this encounter. I had a bag of red licorice Twizzlers in my cart that cost more than this woman’s entire order. That evening I sent an email message to our three grown children and their families to let them know that there is nothing that either their dad or I want, need or have to have for the holidays. I asked them to please make a donation to a local food bank or food kitchen in our name instead of getting us gifts. Each one replied by asking us to do the same for them—guess we did something right growing them up.
Just a small encounter, and an “in my face” example of what happens when our government policies and actions take away support for our most needy and vulnerable people. People were generous during Thanksgiving food drives. But what happens during the rest of the year? One of my daughters asked me why I didn’t give the woman at least a twenty-dollar bill. In retrospect, the only thing that I can think of is that I was so taken back and transfixed at the time that it didn’t even occur to me.
That evening my husband made a donation to the New York Food Bank and I did the same for Connecticut. Neither of us knew what the other was doing. We’re going to need to remember to keep that up throughout the year and hope others will do the same.
During the summer months it’s easy to forget that basic human needs are not season but daily. I encourage you to remember that and think how you can serve and or give in a small or large way. Whatever you feel inclined to do I know will make a LARGE difference in the recipients life.
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