You know the Mom.
Shopping cart full of kids and groceries. Kids grabbing things off of shelves. Whining. Oh, incessant whining and crying coming from that cart. Maybe even a few shrieks as brother hits sister or vice versa.
And then Mom does it.
It starts with her bribing the kids to be quiet with some sort of treat, then hissing at the kids to be quiet, followed by the gritted teeth 'quiet' a little louder and then the "seriously??? If you DON'T stop hitting your brother I'm going to...."
Exasperated she pushes that cart through the store and makes her way to the checkout stand. Plunking groceries down on one side, returning all of the "extras" that appeared in her basket with the other hand. And then she goes to pay and the checker says "Here, this is for you. The lady before you left it."
$34 and some change.
"No, no! It's got to be a mistake. She left it on accident, right?"
"No, she specifically said to give it to you."
Scanning the crowds and suddenly unaware of what the kids might be up to, I looked for her. How did I NOT notice what she looked like before? Was I so into what was happening with my own children that I failed to notice what was going on around me?
For some reason I looked back at the kids and the kids were silent too.
"Mom, you needed money to put gas in the car. Now you have it!"
Suddenly after my son made that comment I was aware of whose eyes might now be on ME. I didn't want everyone to know about our situation. Money has been tight, but it hasn't been impossibly tight. We've managed to keep afloat. I paid for my small purchase, thanked the checker and he gave the money to my son. Maybe he knew I wouldn't take it. I don't know.
On the way out of the store, that remaining money seemed like such a burden of responsibility. I knew I had an obligation to pay it forward. The realization of how I would worried me. Yes, it would've been helpful to have it for gas money. Yes, it would be nice to take my kids to a movie--something I haven't been able to do since before my husband lost his job. Yes, it would be nice to plunk it down on the counter for the next person in line. That small amount of money might as well have been me carrying around a million dollars in my pocket. I really wanted this to be a lesson for our kids. What a great opportunity.
Nothing like this has ever happened to me. I've left money for others in line before, anonymously paid bills for struggling friends--but never have I needed it. It was hard. I didn't know what to do. Was I more upset about the concept of someone serving me than me being in a capacity to serve? Honestly, it was probably a combination of both.
We did end up finding a great way to pay it forward. And to the woman who served us that day? Thank you.