“Swipe your card again, Ma’am.”
The clerk shook her head. “Sorry. It says it’s unable to process.“
Yes. That one.
When you realize you have no way to purchase the items you have in your hands.
My face floods a sting of red. I’m concerned what’s happened.
“It’s my bank card, that’s disconcerting.”
I check my wallet. $8.32.
I’m holding three cards and a birthday balloon. We stopped really quickly. I have no other methods of payment.
“My husband’s in the car. Let me call him to come in and pay.”
“No problem, Ma’am.”
So formal. Distant and cold.
I give the clerk the items. Stand off to the side. My eyes meet the people in line behind me.
“I’m sorry.” I mouth the words.
The woman dodges my eyes. She’s probably annoyed. Thinking she picked the wrong line.
I feel terrible. And confused. I don’t know what’s happened.
I call my husband. No answer.
I call him again.
Frantic, “My card isn’t working, can you come in and pay?!“
I begin to feel the shame. What must other people think? To avoid these thoughts, I decide to call the bank.
Looking down to dial the numbers, waiting for the prompter to finally arrive at a human being, the clerk hands me the items.
What does she mean here?….I’m now even more confused. Bewildered. Is she secretly giving me these things? Does she think I’m ready? My husband isn’t here with the money yet. I don’t want to keep any more people waiting.
She sees my confusion.
Meets it with a huge smile.
She rests her hand on my shoulder. And points down the row of check out lines.
“You see that woman there? She purchased your items for you.”
For a split second the woman turns around, the woman I thought was annoyed, and her eyes meet mine, and she smiles.
“Thank you!” I say to the clerk.
“Honey, don’t thank me, thank her!” she says.
As I take off running to find this generous woman, I realize we are all smiling.
I didn’t end up finding the woman to thank her myself. I hope that when our eyes met, during my moment of shock at her thoughtful generosity, that perhaps that was enough for her to know I was very grateful. It turns out there was a fraud alert on my card from a criminal using it to purchase $325 at a Walmart 500+ miles from my home. It was so early in the morning, my bank had not yet called to alert me, so I attempted to use the card not knowing of its suspension. In my moment of vulnerability, these kind women, both the clerk and the woman waiting behind me, showed tremendous compassion, free of judgement, free of pain.
In the midst of unfortunate victimization, I am blessed with a random act of kindness.
My heart opens, and I am grateful.
Embracing this moment.
Have you been on the recipient end of a random act of kindness? How do you think I should pay it forward?