October 14, 2010
By , charlottesville, VA
We were standing in line at Kroger with 4 liters of Sugar-free cranberry juice. My mom and I were behind a young African American man. He smiled in the way I knew was a little different, a little special. He looked at our cranberry juice and said

“Do you like cranberry juice? I like it.”

My mom smiled back, the way she smiles at strangers.

“Really? We have started getting the sugar free kind, because it has real juice.”

The man looked down at his, crestfallen. Both my mom and I could see it was regular juice. He seemed like he was trying to say something, but he was silent. My mom noticed this with her keen eye.

“Oh, but yours has blueberry! That sounds great.” He made a small smile and moved up his place in line to check out.

He only had enough food in his cart for one meal, but when he swiped his card, the check-out man said there was a problem. The man looked so worried, like he couldn’t understand.

“I will try again.” he said.

But again his card didn’t work. The man moved a couple feet away from the counter and pulled out a cell phone. My mom glanced back at me, with all my might I wished that she would pay for him. I repeated them again and again.

Do it. Just do it, mom. Give him this. Do it.

My mom’s look told me she was praying, to ask if she should pay. She leaned forward to the check-out man.

“Excuse me, sir? Was his card refused?”

The cashier nodded. “Yes m’am.”

My mom was so close to offering, but she wasn’t saying anything. She looked back at me again, I told her with my eyes to pay. I could tell she understood. She looked around her once, her mouth twitched.

“Sir? Sir.” she said urgently “I’ll pay for him. Ye- yes, I’ll cover him.”

“Are you sure?” the cashier replied. My mom nodded firmly, and I nearly grinned.

The cashier caught the young man’s attention. “Hey, man, she’s payin.” The young man looked at my mom with a mixture of uncertainty and thankfulness.

“No, no. This lady behind me is paying for this.” he said into the phone.

“It’s alright,” my mom said to the man.

He looked straight into her eyes and said “Thank. You. So. Much.”

We were just at our car with our groceries when a ledy called out to my mom.

“Ma’am? MA’AM? Excuse me, but did you just pay for my son’s groceries?” She was relatively short and black, and wearing a pretty white dress. My mom nodded.

“That was so gracious of you, but I want to give it back.” My mom started to refuse. “No, his card has never done that, we just need to figure this out, can I have your address and I will send you a check.”

“I just know how awkward that is, I know it was when it happened to me.” My mom said. The young man walked up next to his mother, but he didn’t talk. My mom got a note card out of her purse and wrote down our names and address in her loopy handwriting.

“I know it is, it really is. But you didn’t have to do that. He doesn’t need it, but is so rare that someone would do that.”

I watched from behind as this woman we had never met hugged my mom, and she hugged back. The young man looked like he wanted to hug, but was unsure. My mom stepped forward and he hugged her.

“Wow, now that is rare. He hardly ever hugs, that’s special that he hugged you, he really means it.” My mom nodded and smiled, then wished them a good week, they did the same.
When we got back into the car I noticed my mom was crying, I wanted to. I felt like this sort of stuff doesn’t happen to us, it happens to other people.

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