Doris was pushing the grocery cart up and down the aisles trying to follow her well-detailed list which had the sale items marked with a check mark. Fourteen-month old Kelly was sitting in the child’s seat facing her mama holding a box of cereal on her little lap. Doris thought Kelly was happy to have something on her lap because she felt she was helping with the weekly shopping trip. She would reach for this or that on the shelves and would point showing her desire for more and more. When she started to rub her eyes as they were nearing the last aisle, her lower lip protruded. That was Kelly’s warning sign that her mama needed to get in the check-out lane and get her beautiful, tired child to the car and back home for her lunch and nap.
The lines were all long, so Doris checked the carts in line to assess the fullest carts and avoid getting behind those. She picked a line and waited behind three shoppers. Kelly fussed a little, then started leaning over and looking around her mama. Doris noticed that Kelly was suddenly content and she was smiling, squinting her eyes as if she was trying to wink, and giggling. Doris took the cereal out of the baby’s lap and started unloading the cart onto the moving conveyor belt. Kelly kept squinting her eyes and Doris noticed she was still flirting with a shopper behind them.
Doris was wondering who was keeping her baby so engaged, so she turned around to look. She was flabbergasted. Behind them in line holding a loaf of bread, was an old, gnarly looking man with a grey scraggly beard, bushy eyebrows, and a grin showing three yellowed teeth. His clothes hadn’t seen the laundry for weeks.
He grinned at Doris and she smiled back at him. She looked down at her little girl and realized that the fresh mind of that little blonde baby was not judging him by his appearance. She accepted every smile with the openness of a loving spirit and gave a smile in return. Doris again looked at the gnarly man in a new light and gave him another smile.
“Ma’am, that little angel just made my day…my week,” he said.
“She does that for me every time she smiles at me, too. I’m glad she made your week.”
“She did that. In fact, I want to thank you for sharing that angel’s smile with me today. So let me buy your groceries today,” he said as he pulled out a $100 bill from his wallet that had several other similar bills spilling out.
“Oh, thank you, but no. I couldn’t let you do that,” Doris exclaimed feeling her face turn red. She looked around to see if anyone was observing her situation.
“Please. It is the least I can do,” he pushed her cart up a short distance where he could talk to the clerk and handed her the crisp bill. The clerk had been listening to the conversation and smiled at Doris.
“How can I thank you, Mr. Henderson, is it? Thank you. That is very kind of you. I can’t believe someone would be so generous to strangers,” Doris said with tears in her eyes. She put her hand on his forearm and surprised herself. She felt such love coming from his heart and she thanked him again.
“Ma’am, it is the least I can do to have the blessed smile from that little angel this morning. Thank you for not making her stop when you saw this dirty, disheveled old goat grinning at her. That was very kind. Well, you go along now and take this precious one home for her lunch,” he said as he waved his arthritic, gnarled hand at Kelly.
Kelly smiled again and waved her chubby little hand back at the generous old man. Doris pushed her cart, her free groceries, and her little angel forward and when she got to the door she turned around and he was still waving. She raised her hand and mouthed, “Thank you again, Mr. Henderson.” She knew he had no idea that now she and her husband would be able to pay the utility bill, as well as feed the family all week. God answers prayer in such fantastic ways, she thought. What would Chuck think? She couldn’t wait to tell him.
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