This is off topic for this literary blog (unless I try to tie it to the many fine novels written about the travails of the military in wartime, which I won’t.). But I observed an incident at the checkout at the grocery store yesterday I’m burning to share.
It was one of those all too rare personal interactions showing respect and appreciation for our men in uniform and it brought tears to my eyes.
A young man in Army combat fatigues with his young son in tow was ahead of me in the checkout line. He had just a handful of items and his darling kid was brandishing a cold Dr. Pepper. When it came time to pay, the soldier realized he left his wallet in the car, so he told the cashier to hold his stuff while he ran outside to get it.
As he and his son dashed out the door, the woman who had been ahead of him and had just finished making her purchase observed all of this. When she did, and after he was out the door, she came back and gave the cashier a ten to pay for the guy’s groceries, insisting she take it, even though she could assume he had the funds to pay for them himself.
“No, really. I want to do this, take the money! It’s the least I can do! Take it!” The cashier was abashed–as was I–it was such an unlooked for gesture of generosity and appreciation, completely out of the blue, our jaws dropped. The woman then instantly disappeared after receiving her change, before the soldier returned, wanting no thanks or recognition whatsoever.
No sooner than she did, the soldier blew back through the door, his son tugging at his pants saying he sure hoped his Dr. Pepper was still there!
I let him go ahead of me, both the cashier and I blurting nonsensically to him at once about the “nice lady” who’d paid for his things. He looked off into the distance and frowned for a sec, then a smile a big as Texas spread across his face when he took the gesture as a compliment, the compliment that had been intended. Sonny boy hadn’t a clue about what was going on but was relieved to find his Dr. Pepper in the bag with the other things, including the paid receipt. It was all too cute, but such a surprise as to seem surreal.
These things don’t happen every day, small gestures of anonymous appreciation that mean so much.
I choked up paying for my few things right after that and shuffled off to my car in a muddle of admiration for the thoughtful kind woman and personal heartache that I so rarely went out of my way to thank the men defending our freedom and way of life.
I should, and now will, do more. All of us should, don’t you think?