by Marcia Mathis
I was so tired that night in February 2002. All I wanted was to stay home but I needed groceries badly so I made my way to the giant discount store. Naturally, it was packed and I was getting peevish.
At the checkout line I was behind two other shoppers. The first was a middle-aged couple, a burly biker with tats and a do-rag and his woman in like dress. Behind them was a tiny old woman with gray hair dressed in sweatpants and a ball cap.
The biker family was evidently shopping for a party and their buggy was full of party stuff: beer, chips, hot dogs and the like. In stark contrast was the little old lady’s buggy, which contained only two enormous bags of dry cat food.
“Hank” was busily unloading their cart when I began to chat with the little old lady. I remarked that she must have a lot of kitties and she told me that she fed a colony of feral cats who lived near a dumpster behind a shopping center close to where she lived. I could tell Hank was listening to our conversation.
As we talked it became clear how much the little old lady loved her wild cats. She told me how long she’d been doing this and how hard it was. But they depended on her, and it was something she not only felt she had to do but wanted to do.
Soon Hank unloaded the remainder of his cart and then added a bunch of roses they had in a display at the checkout for last-minute Valentine’s shoppers. Hank’s wife got out her wallet to pay for their purchases.
Then Hank turned to the little old lady and said, “Would you allow me to pay for your cat food? I love cats and I’d like to help with what you’re doing.”
Now the little old lady, startled by this kind offer, was speechless for a moment and then said “Oh, I couldn’t let you do that…” but Hank insisted he’d really like to and was so sincere. He smiled, reached over the lady’s basket to pull the two bags of cat food out of her buggy and asked the cashier to ring them up on his bill.
Then he took the roses he had just bought, turned and presented them to the little old lady and said “Happy Valentine’s Day”. By this time I had a big lump in my throat, the little old lady looked as though she was about to weep, and the cashier was wearing a smile that stretched clear across her face.
I was so grateful I had decided to shop that night. Otherwise I would have missed witnessing such beautiful generosity and kindness given from one stranger to another.