Checking Out

by Angela Kuhns
Laurel, Maryland, USA

Checking Out

I am very used to being treated differently or with skepticism because of my choices in appearance. But tonight I was shocked.

I should first describe how I looked today. I was wearing my black “Be Outrageous” T-shirt and plaid punk pants with holes in them. I had on very macho scuffed motorcycle boots and my studded leather jacket. My hair is currently dyed indigo and hot pink. Needless to say, I tend to get strange looks quite often.

I had taken my 5-year-old daughter with me to run to the Target store for a few things. I got my purchases together and got up to the checkout stand. As the clerk rang my things up, I discovered that I had left my wallet at home. I had $23 in my pocket, but the total was $35.53. The clerk, being helpful and not wanting to deal with writing up an over-ring, asked if I had a credit card. I did, but it had been charged to the limit, and I wasn’t sure if the check had gone through to pay on it yet. The clerk tried to run the charge on my card, and no, it didn’t go through.

I was a bit embarrassed at this point and knew I was holding up the line. I tried quickly to look through the bag for what would be worth enough to bring the total down. Then the lady behind me spoke up to ask me how short of money I was.

I looked up to see a beautiful middle-aged woman dressed in nice business clothes, with manicured nails. She was opening an expensive- looking pocketbook. Embarrassed by her steady gaze, I mumbled “$12.” I turned back to the shopping bag and pulled out the scarf and mittens I had picked out for my daughter. The lady said “Here” and handed a $20 bill to the cashier. I was dumbfounded and said, “Oh no. No, it’s OK, really.” But the cashier took the money and rang up the sale.

The lady touched my arm and said, “Honey, I have been you. I know I don’t look it, but I have had rough times and frazzled days trying to shop with my three kids alone. Let me do this.” I couldn’t think of anything to say but “Thank you.” She smiled, and then she turned to put her own purchases up on the checkout stand. I wanted to say more and paused for a moment. But what could I have said?

Instead I will share this story with you. For all of you who have ever shown me or someone like me kindness, I thank you.

Originally published as HeroicStories #225 on 3 August 2001

1 thought on “Checking Out”

  1. What an awesome lady – not just for the act, which is enough, but for the explanation which helped to create a sense of acceptance.


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