My friend Tammy works from home, rarely traveling more than walking distance from her downtown Denver, Colorado apartment — let alone outside the city. During the late 2002 holiday season, Tammy’s Aunt Jess, who lives on the far eastern edge of town, got pneumonia. Though not elderly, she has asthma. She didn’t ask for help until her doctor ordered her to stay home and relax.
Jess wasn’t sick enough to hospitalize, but the doctor wouldn’t let her leave his office until he knew someone would be at home to care for her. Tammy’s brother picked Jess up, but neither he nor Tammy’s sisters could leave work for days. Tammy was the only relative with the freedom to stay with her aunt.
James stayed with Jess until Tammy arrived, but he had to leave almost immediately. Since Jess had been feeling bad for a while, and there was almost no food in the house, so Tammy decided a shopping trip was in order. She made a careful list so that she wouldn’t have to be gone longer than necessary. The grocery store was close, and she made great time, getting the groceries in fifteen minutes.
After digging around in her purse at the checkout stand, Tammy realized she’d left her wallet on the table… back in her apartment.
Everything was already checked out and there was a line behind her, so she was absolutely mortified as she apologized to the cashier and explained the situation. The cashier began to clear the order, but the gentleman behind Tammy spoke up. He looked at the total, handed the cashier his credit card with the bread and soda he was holding, and told her to add Tammy’s groceries — over $100 worth — to his tiny purchase.
When everything was checked through, the man pulled his soda and bread from the cart and walked away. Tammy snapped out of her shock and asked for his name and address to pay him back. He told her not to worry, he could tell she wasn’t having a good day, and he was glad to help. He just kept walking.
Tammy couldn’t catch him, so she just went back to take care of Jess.
A couple of weeks later when Jess was better Tammy remembered her grocery store savior. The only thing she knew about him was where he got groceries, so every chance she got, she took the one-hour drive back out to the store. She worked on her laptop in a cafe nearby and watched for him. It took a week and a half of “staking out” the grocery store before she saw him again.
She stopped him as he was coming out of the store, and asked if she could buy him dinner to repay his favor. She told me she wasn’t sure which was nicer: being able to repay his favor, or the surprise on his face at seeing her again!