Standing at the checkout counter at Braum's with my fresh veggies for the evening and a small container of chocolate chip ice cream for dessert, the woman cashier placed the products in my recycle bag, turned to the register, and spoke in a solemn voice: "That's $8.02."
I handed her a ten-dollar bill.
"Do you have two cents?" Her voice didn't change, only a toneless request.
Immediately, I dug around in my purse then replied: "No." Taking in a casual breath I added: "I have a penny."
I proudly showed my penny as proof.
The young, pale woman stared through me, her face blank of all expression. How sad, I thought as I studied her face and lack of any kind of movement in her body gestures. At last, my fumbling fingers found a penny, then two pennies in my purse. I handed her the ten dollars and two pennies.
I remained fixed on this woman's face as she placed the bill in the register and counted out my change. Still no expression and no life in her body.
I reached for the bills as she handed them to me. In a whisper, I asked: "May I give you a tip?"
She nodded. I guess.
I gave her the change back and a bill in my purse. She almost smiled as she stuffed the money in a tiny pocket in her jeans. My heart pounded with agony to see someone so empty.
In the car, I sat thinking about her. Had COVID caused such pain in her life or had her life been filled with pain, fear, anger? Probably all of those my heart replied.
My stomach began to roll. I needed a malt, and here I sat in Braum's parking lot unable to move. A tear rolled down my face as I backed out of the parking lot begging my mind to think of something else. Please.
I heard our minister’s words: "Love does no wrong to a neighbor."
This woman who haunted me needs hugs—kind, warm, sincere hugs. She needs love and assurance that she is a good person. She needs money, and probably stable food and shelter. She has needs that I have never experienced.
I walked in the house that day feeling blessed but with a hole in my heart. There will be another day for me to buy ice cream at Braum's. I will be alert to other's needs before I put my needs first. My air hugs will be in the form of thoughtful prayers for all women in her shoes. I will be a better person because everyone's life matters, and I can help. I will carry cash in my pocket and offer a kind word to whoever helps me.
And I will remember it is a small world and we are all neighbors.