Dear Dr. Laura:
It was my daughter's 7th birthday and I was required to bring her 1st grade class fresh flowers and snacks for the week. This was an extremely challenging financial time for our family where $10 was like gold. I headed to the store to buy these items and prepared to pay with the only money I had - piggy bank change.
Waiting in line at the register with my two younger children, I asked them wait for me at the exit door to spare them having to see me count out the pennies to pay. The man in line behind me quietly offered to help pay holding out to me a ten dollar bill. I politely refused, expressing I was very grateful and sincerely thanked him. In that moment, I wondered if he could sense my desperation or if the very sight of me counting change warranted help. Just then he was called over to another newly opened register as I continued counting out change.
A moment or two passed, when my cashier told me the man in the next lane over gave his cashier something to give to me and showed me a ten dollar bill. I immediately began sobbing big tears and couldn't stop. I was completely overwhelmed by the gesture and relieved to have an acknowledgment of support. Then the woman in line behind me offered a five dollar bill which I kindly thanked her, yet politely refused. One charity was more than enough!
Leaving the store I felt the lightness of an emotional release and the spirit of generosity. The man later saw me in the parking lot where I learned he was a father to two elementary school children also and living two streets over from us. He said he didn't mean to make me cry and I explained how the emotion overwhelmed me. I thanked him again and he ended the conversation by saying "just pay it forward."
The kindness from a stranger helped me in unexpected ways. I am inspired to want to help others in true need no matter how large or small and I think of this experience every time I do.