As she fumbled through her wallet for the food stamps, the mad behind her shifted his weight from one leg to the other.
His annoyance and smug attitude escaped no one's view in the register line.
When the young mother counted the slips of paper to the checker, she was embarrassed as she whispered, "I don't have enough. Would you take these juice boxes off the ticket, please?"
The three year old boy hanging on her pants leg must have heard her. He began to sob.
She rubbed the child's head as the man removed the juices from her bag and placed them on the counter behind the register.
She struggled to hold her head up as the line of customers gradually became aware that she could not check out with her full order of grocery items. One after another, customers looked away, or down, or pretended to read a magazine – anything to keep from acknowledging the mother's plight.
One item, then another, then another – removed from the bags – until she was able to cover the total with her allotted funds.
She loaded her bags into the cart, took her son's hand and pushed the cart toward the doors.
She glanced back when she heard the man behind her. "I never went on assistance. It's just shameful how these young people have babies that they can't afford. Looking for a handout."
When her husband shipped off to Afghanistan, they were living comfortably.
Until the day that two US Marines came to her door…
With those few words, her life was changed forever…
"We regret to inform you that your husband, Corporal James L. Greene, has been killed in combat. We're sorry for your loss, ma'am."
She collapsed that day, but had no time to grieve. Their son needed more from her than grieving for a lost love.
Once the insurance payment came in, there were no other funds. No money from a military that he served for eight years. Nothing but a medal. And a "Thank you for your husband's service."
She appreciated the sentiment and kept the medal in a box by her bed, but that would not feed the young boy whose eyes reflected his daddy's. And it would not mend her broken heart. But she trudged on, day by day.
Today was hard. The middle of the month, trying to stretch the money she had left to cover the last part of the month. It was just hard.
She looked directly into the man's eyes at the grocery line.
"My husband died serving this country, sir. We will always be proud of him When our country needed him to go overseas, the country felt no shame in asking him to sacrifice. If I need a little help, a handout, to get by, I will likewise feel no shame in asking."
She turned back to her cart to see a young man, about twenty years old holding two bags of groceries.
"Here are the items you could not get today. If I can ease your burden, please allow me to do so. I have never needed a handout either.
"But I got one.
"Grace from a Heavenly Father who sent his Son to die for me. A handout, if you will. He asks for no repayment. If that is a handout, then let me share my good fortune with you."
Just as quickly as the young man had appeared, he was gone.
Except for the extra bags in her cart, she would not have believed he had even been there.
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