Last week I was fussy overmuch. St. Patsy was due home from her Month Of Sistering in Gettysburg; I was thence on Chauffeur Duty for her Medical Necessaries. I had a luncheon scheduled. I had to get an E-check for the car. I had to go to the bank. I had to go to the grocery store for a few things. I had laundry to do. And since we were leaving on Thursday morning for our annual Independence Day Weekend Jaunt To Canada, I felt pushed and rushed because I also had to pack. Ugh.
So, on Tuesday I zipped out to the grocery store. It was another hot and tropically humid day with ever-threatening showers. I only needed to grab a few things, mainly nibblies for our Jaunt. (We like to have a little Road Food on hand to keep our stomachs full for tastings, and Room Food for snacking.) I was zooming through the aisles as much as I could, which was not much, because it was the 2nd of the month and the store was full of the elderly Social Security recipients. The checkout lines were also long and slow due to heavy couponing, WIC cards, check writers, and exact change counters. I, however, was patient and made a mental note to report back to my husband the vast numbers of individuals following The Rick Rule: Retired People need to shop during the week and leave the weekends for the working people.
I glanced nervously out the huge windows ahead. It was clouding up again. I hoped like hell I wouldn't have to load up my car in the rain, then unload it all in the rain. I saw a few drops hit the glass.
Finally through the line, I hurried out to my car. Once I stowed my stuff, I happened to glance over to the store's front. A young couple were unloading a full cart, and the man was valiantly stuffing as much as he could into a large backpack. The young woman kept shaking her head. It occurred to me that they had no car. They were going to walk home with all their groceries. And there was no possible way that any more of the contents of that cart were going to fit into that backpack. Simple physics.
I backed my car out, hesitated, then resolutely drove up to the couple. Pulling up alongside, I called out the open window, "Do you not have a car today? Would you let me help you by giving you a ride?"
The two exchanged a glance, and the young man came to my window. "We don't have a car," he said. "But, ma'am, I guess if you would give us a ride, we'd be glad to take it. Thank you so much." They opened the door to the back seat and began stowing their bags. "Wow. Thanks so much!" the young woman said as she climbed in after them; the young man sat up front to navigate. "I don't know what we were gonna do. That backpack broke, and we had a lot more stuff than we thought."
"I'm so happy to do it," I said. "Besides, there is no way I could let you even try to walk with this heat and the weather looking this way. It might storm again any minute. Now if you'll just tell me where you live and how to get there, we'll be off." I introduced myself, and told them where I had taught in case one or both had attended there. They gave their names, thanking me over and over again, the woman recognizing me from school years ago.
"This is awfully nice of you, Mrs. D.," she said again. "You're probably the only person in this town that would do something like this, though. No one in this town gives a damn about people like us."
"Oh, I'm sure that's not true!" I protested. "That's just not true at all. But I'm glad I saw you and am able now to help out." We drove by a restaurant a few minutes from the store and stopped at the light. "Do you like that restaurant?" the young man asked.
"I do," I said. "But it's so popular and crowded that I don't eat there often. I like the food, but I don't like waiting for it." "I work there," he said. "I just got promoted to staff trainer, and I'm being trained for manager."
I looked at him; his pride was evident. "That's awesome. You must be a very valued employee," I told him. "But, how do you get to work every day?"
"I walk. It adds another couple hours to my day, and it's worse when I work real late, but I walk. That's what I do."
As I drove, he told me little things here and there about the neighborhood as we passed them: the school that is now a charter school, the neighbor who barbecues every Sunday, the guy who is real nice about letting all the kids play in his yard. Pretty soon we drove up to a tiny house on the corner, and I drove up the driveway. I admonished them both not to be in a hurry; I was retired and had all the time in the world. They laughed and pulled their bags from my car, thanked me about eleventy more times, and told me I really saved them that day.
A light rain was falling, and I said they shouldn't get wet. "I'm so glad I could help you!" I said again, and I backed out of their stubby driveway and drove off. And really, I was.
It was an interlude I sorely needed.
My father used to tell us constantly that we needed Contrasts in life to help us fully appreciate the Good Things. One of his watchwords was Appreciation. We were raised on it. And here I was, forgetting it. I am thankful for such an Object Lesson.
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