Thursday, October 23, 2014

Week 5: Layaway No More

Months ago I sat down with a cup of coffee, a blank notebook, and an idea of what the Kindness Countdown could be.  As I started making a list of random acts of kindness I'd like to spread I thought about sharing the adventure with others.  It was a difficult decision, however, because I didn't want people to read about the experiences and think more of me...I wanted them to read about the experiences and think more about the good they could spread in their life, where they are.  Please keep that in mind as you read about this week's random act of kindness...

"Be a layaway angel" was near the top of my list back on that sunny June day.  I expected it to be my most valuable activity, both in price and in experience.  However, I failed to expect the degree in which it would affect me...and others in the vicinity as it all went down. 

The weather has changed a lot here in Wisconsin the past few weeks.  Even the Canadian geese are flying south.  It's time to dig out the winter coats, hats, gloves and boots...and buy replacements for items outgrown by my children over the summer months.  And while I'm in the position of needing to purchase items on sale, or with a powerful coupon code, I know there are people who find this time of year extremely difficult.  They've just gathered up the funds to purchase school supplies and now they are required to purchase these additional necessities....and all as the holidays approach.  And so I thought this would be a good time to lend a hand.

The kids and I headed to K-Mart this week where we waited in a very long line with a woman my age shopping with her mother.  I noticed the mother looked at little girl's boots, asking her daughter if one pair would be good for her granddaughter.  "They're cute," she replied, "but how much are they?"  Her mother brought them over and they talked about how she needed to have winter boots soon with frost showing up each morning this week.  And so they added them to their pile.  That's when I noticed the other items in their cart...primarily clothing for their precious daughter/granddaughter.

I stood there and thought "I came here to pay off a stranger's layaway account, but here is someone who needs my help now."  I approached the woman and timidly explained that I had come to the store that day with the intention of paying off someone's layaway account with children's items on it, and that if it was OK with her, I'd like to change the plan and buy the items in her cart.  She looked at meand said, "I appreciate it, but no thank you."  And then after a long pause she added, "Wait, can you say that again, I think I'm in shock."  And so I explained it to her again.  And then her mother hugged me.  And then she hugged me.  And then the older woman in line behind them hugged me. 

The woman behind the counter just stared at us as we moved the cart out of the que and let the woman behind her move forward.  As she pushed her cart ahead she said, "I'm just so happy to be a witness.  You always hear about bad things and here is a great one.  I have exercise class tomorrow morning and we always begin each class sharing positive things we've seen or heard.  You are going to be my story tomorrow morning.  I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving!"

As we walked towards the registers, we could hear people wishing each other a "Happy Thanksgiving" and "Merry Early Christmas."  It was impossible not to smile. 

We walked up to the register and together placed the children's boots, sweatshirts and jeans on the counter.  I then added the Frozen dining set in the cart and a pair of women's shoes, the only item she had picked out for herself.  She quickly said, "You don't have to do that."  I smiled and said, "Mothers deserve special things too."  And then we hugged again. And she promised she would pay it forward. 

What a blessing this experience was to my children and me...a reminder of how fortunate we are to "have enough and then just a little extra," as my son said when we got into the car.  And I felt honored to be able to lighten the load of that mother even if it was just for a moment.  It takes a village and I was pleased to be a part of hers today.

If you'd like to participate in a Layaway Angel program, please visit your local K-Mart or Walmart to help out struggling parents and those who need a bit of help making ends meet.  I've been told that  K-Mart employees are able to look up account specifics if you'd like to assist with children's clothes, food, school supplies, toys, etc., but that at Walmart, you simply specify a dollar amount and they will locate an account for you.  What a thrill it must be for the recipient to receive a telephone call explaining their balance has been paid in full!

Another option to keep in mind as Christmas and Hanukkah approaches is to visit Toys "R" Us which sets up a similar program for toy purchases.  What a gift it would be to bring smiles to the faces of parents trying to bring smiles to the faces of their children.  

"The best feeling you can ever have is to give to others." - Oprah

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