Coming home from the boys' martial arts class last night, I was sure my post today was going to be about our experience there. It was red tip testing and Jack didn't pass his test. He was heartbroken, and thus, because I am his mother, so was I. Of course - again because I am his mother - somehow I became the focus of his anger. I'm not exactly sure what it was I did to incur his wrath. Evidently, sadness and disappointment cause logic to be tossed right out the window. By the time I passed through my front door, I felt emotionally drained.
Walking into the kitchen, I greeted my husband and asked him about his day, hoping it had been better than the last 20 minutes of mine. When he finished telling me about one particular event, I knew I had found my next slice of life story.
My husband, Dan, is the manager of a grocery store. In his work he meets all different kinds of people, as you might imagine. Certainly there are many negative encounters: complaining customers, shoplifters, and people who just seem determined to make everyone else as miserable as they are. This, fortunately, wasn't one of those stories. It was one, instead, that brought tears to my eyes.
A young mother came through my husband's line with her son, whom Dan estimated to be about four years old. She was buying him cookies and a book. Dan couldn't remember the title, but he was sure it was a Little Golden Book. (Of course, the title is unimportant. Only a teacher would ask that question, right?) When she went to pay, she discovered that she did not have enough money to pay for both. She had one of those government assistance cards that pays for food, but there is also a cash balance that can be used for other things, in this case a book for her child. She had a choice to put back either the cookies or the book. She chose the cookies. When she still came up short, tears filled her eyes. Here she was with a line of waiting customers behind her and a disappointed child beside her. I can only imagine the pain and embarrassment she must have felt at that moment. How could she explain to her child that he wouldn't be getting either of the treats after all? Fortunately, she didn't have to explain. Dan offered to pay for the book himself, telling her she could either pay him back when she could or pay it forward. Gratefully, she accepted.
When he was halfway through this story, and I was on the verge of crying, I told him this was a terrible story. When he finished, I thought what a truly wonderful story it was. He asked me if I was okay with what he had done. Okay? I was damn proud of him! As a reader and a father, it was no surprise that he would step in and pay for a book for a child. I was also proud of that young mother, who valued literacy over a sugary treat.
More than anything, this story made me feel that maybe there is hope for the world yet. It seems like lately there is an overwhelming amount of negativity in the world. We get bombarded with it on a daily basis, and so many people are willing to see the worst in others and make snap decisions. If you constantly look for what is wrong, eventually that is all you will see. I know some people might look down on this woman for receiving government assistance. As someone who has had several relatives lose jobs over the years due to the economy and through no fault of their own, I know that not everyone is a lazy bum taking the easy way out. I don't know what this young woman's story is. All I know for certain is that she was willing to spend the last few dollars she had to buy her child a book. There are plenty of people with sufficient funds who would never think of doing the same. And then there is my husband who was willing to help a complete stranger. I like to think his gesture reinforced for this woman her decision to provide for her child's developing literacy, which we all know will provide great benefits for him in the future.
My husband told her not to worry about the money, to pay it forward. I think she already has.