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Last week I watched a video segment of “What Would You Do?” where a series of grocery store customers (actually actors) were at the check stand when they realized they didn’t have enough money to pay for their purchases. Hidden television cameras then captured the reactions of other customers standing behind them, as one or another of them stepped up to pay for the groceries. Most of the segments were heartwarming and brought a tear to my eye.

After the basketball awards for Olivia tonight, I decided to go to Target for ice cream. Once there, of course, I added a number of other items, including a new brand of hair coloring, milk, and bagels. When the clerk gave me the total due, I commented about what an expensive container of ice cream that was (just shy of $50). She smiled as I ran my debit card through the machine, chose “no cash back” and “yes, I want it all on the card”. Then I was stunned to see “unable to process card” or something similar pop up on the screen. I ran it through again, thinking perhaps I had hit a wrong button for my debit card number. No, it still said “unable to process card”. My credit union had notified me earlier this week that my debit card had potentially been compromised and they were sending me a new one, as well as limiting my usage until the new one came. Fortunately I had a back up. I knew there wasn’t enough room on my emergency card for everything, so I asked her to remove the hair coloring and several totally unnecessary items, then tried my emergency card. Again it said, “unable to process card”.

By this time there were several other people lined up at the register behind me, and they were getting restless at the delay. Trying not to lose my temper, I quietly told the clerk I would have to put everything back. About that time a young woman stepped forward from the check out line and spoke to the clerk. “Add the hair coloring and everything back on, please,” she said, holding out her debit card. “I’ll take care of it.” In amazement, I told her she was going to make me cry. “Don’t worry about it,” she said, giving me a hug. As I tried to explain and thank her adequately, she stepped back into line and the clerk put my groceries in my cart. Before leaving, I walked over and hugged her again, promising to pay her generosity forward.

I am a lot better at giving than receiving, especially from someone I don’t even know. But she was so gracious in her generosity, obviously not wanting me to make a big deal of it. I wish I had gotten her name, but I was rather rattled! It is truly hard to comprehend how, in this tight economy, someone would simply step up and pay a bill for someone else. I was almost ashamed that there were frivolous items in my cart…nothing like looking at my purchases through the eyes of a stranger! I am so incredibly grateful…and humbled…and will be passing on her quiet gift to someone else.

What will you pay forward this weekend?