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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Volunteer (11/23/06)

TITLE: Free-Will Offering
By Karen Treharne


Jessica finally found a parking place in the busy mall lot. It seemed no matter what time of day or night she went shopping, it took forever to find a parking spot.

She checked her watch, noting that she had just over an hour to get the last of her errands done before picking Jake up at his swimming class. Sometimes she hated her days off - what a joke.

Jessie hurried up and down the isles checking off her list as she went. Bread, cheese, soup … It was slow going since there were many others buying groceries for the week and weekend ahead.

When she finally finished, she stood in line behind two other shoppers and as patiently as possible waited for her turn. As she waited, she watched the young mother of three juggle her kids as she waited in front of her.

“Be careful Danny, don’t hit your sister. You could hurt her. Now, say you’re sorry.”

“Stop crying Melissa. It’s not that bad. Let mommy kiss it … Danny, give your sister a hug. That’s a good boy.”

She bounced the baby in her arms who was on the verge of a nap, but only if the mom didn’t have to stop and referee the other two again.

They were adorable blond-haired, blue-eyed kids with dirty faces and well-worn clothes. Mom still carried some baby fat around her tummy and looked stressed from what had probably been a busy day. I felt guilty about whining because of MY schedule.

At last the line moved forward and Jessica watched as mom and the two older ones unloaded the full basket onto the conveyer belt. All the essentials including soap, paper towels, and of course, food items. She saw nothing extra or frivolous - not even a magazine.

She overheard the mother tell her kids though, “How about a dish of ice cream when we get home? Does that sound good - with chocolate topping?”

The kids yelped with glee and smiled happily in anticipation.

The clerk totaled the bill and the mother began to search in her purse. Jessica saw the panic in her eyes as she pulled things out of her bag and put them on the counter top. Finally, she looked at the clerk with a frown and quivering lips.

“I can’t find my wallet. I must have forgotten to put it in my purse. I don’t know what to do.”

The clerk looked annoyed and unsympathetic, and I could tell she was about to embarrass this young mother with harsh words, so I interrupted.

“Please let me pay for your groceries. I have extra money right now, and it would be my pleasure to help you out, if you’ll let me.”

The woman at the cash register just starred and the mother’s eyes were round with wonder.

“I really mean it. Here’s my credit card.”

“I don’t know what to say. Thank you so much. Please give me your name and address and I will come later with a check to pay you back.”

Jessica gave her the information she wanted and watched them head for the door. She never expected to be paid back, but she didn’t really care. In fact, she wished someone had been around to help her when she had been a young single mom.

She looked at her watch and with 20 minutes to spare, Jessie drove as fast as she dared to get to the pool on time.

Two days later, there was a knock at the door. When she answered it, the mother from the store was there with her three children and a bouquet of spring flowers.

Jessica invited her inside and thanked her for the gift and the check that she gave her.

They talked for a few minutes, but Nina was obviously uncomfortable and eager to leave, so I gave the older ones a cookie and said good-bye. As they got back into their older model Ford, I prayed for their well-being and thanked God for being blessed with the opportunity to help.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Joanne Sher 11/30/06
What a heartwarming story! I loved all the detail you gave - it made this story so real feeling! The end of it seemed a bit weak in my opinion, but I loved everything else about it!
Folakemi Emem-Akpan12/01/06
Good story but I was initially confused. You wrote both in the first and third person narrative, sometimes substituting Jessica for I. Or is it me?
Cheri Hardaway 12/04/06
The only place I noticed "I" substituted for "Jessica" was in the last paragraph. And there were a couple misspellings. Other than that, a beautiful story and an excellent example of "volunteering." Good work. Blessings, Cheri