Single Mother & Company

Lorie was watching when the supermarket cashier told the young mother that her card was declined. She knew she wanted to help the woman. She couldn’t explain why. It was something she wanted to do.

Just because.

Maybe it was the way the girl was holding a baby on her hip and a toddler by the hand. Or it could have been the girl’s frazzled facial expression.

Maybe it was the single-file line of impatient shoppers, rolling eyes, glancing at watches, adjusting their surgical masks.

Lorie stepped forward. She spoke to the cashier. “I wanna buy her groceries,” she said, presenting her card.

The girl looked embarrassed. There’s a feeling that comes with being the recipient of charity. It’s not a pleasant one. You feel a mixture of colossal idiocy and gratefulness, combined into one giant, foul-tasting pepperoni.

“No,” said the girl. “I’ll just put all this stuff back.”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” said Lorie.

“Please, ma’am, I don’t need no charity. My boss just hasn’t direct-deposited my check, that’s all.”

There is none prouder than a mother with a light wallet.

“I’m buying your groceries,” said Lorie. “You can either take them home, or let them spoil in the parking lot. But I’m buying them.”

The young woman seemed genuinely confused. “Why are you doing this?”

Lorie thought about it for several moments. It was a very good question. What had come over her? Why was she doing this?

“Just because,” Lorie said.

As it turns out, it wasn’t just a few scant groceries. The girl had practically shoved the whole grocery store into her buggy.

She was buying the confectionary things growing children need to stay healthy and strong. Chocolate bars, chocolate milk, chocolate popsicles, chocolate chips, chocolate fudge brownies, chocolate syrup, chocolate pretzels, Swiss chocolate swizzle sticks, triple chocolate dark fudge ice cream, and a new pancreas.

The girl agreed to let Lorie buy her items. But before paying, she removed an unopened pack of cigarettes from a bag and returned them to the cashier.

“No,” said Lorie. “Keep your cigarettes. I’ll buy those, too. I smoked for 23 years. This isn’t the day to go cold turkey.”

The girl probably felt like a major fool now. A stranger was buying her Virginia slims.

When the groceries were bagged, they walked to the parking lot together.

Lorie could feel the girl tensing up. It was probably the humiliation of it all. Or maybe the girl was wondering why this strange woman was doing this. Were there strings attached? Was Lorie an axe murderer? Or perhaps a fundamentalist wack job?

The truth was, Lorie was remembering when she was single, raising children on pennies. Her family ate food donated from the Methodist church. And in those days, Lorie’s two jobs barely earned enough to stay above the waterline.

This is why Lorie passed no judgements and gave no sermons. She didn’t criticize the family’s truly staggering chocolate addiction. She didn’t tell the girl that her kids’ teeth would likely be rotted out by next Tuesday.

She didn’t warn the girl about the surgeon general’s thoughts on smoking. Neither did Lorie hand her a religious pamphlet on how to join the Women’s Missionary And Tiny Finger Sandwich Society.

Lorie merely helped the girl load groceries. They swapped phone numbers. And Lorie left.

A few weeks later. Lorie was at home, working in her garden. It was a hot day. Lorie heard her dog barking like somebody was at the door.

“I thought it was UPS,” said Lorie. “I get a lot of deliveries since COVID started.”

Lorie walked through the house wearing soiled gloves and a big sun hat. She opened her door. But nobody was there. On her welcome mat sat a green envelope. Inside was cash and a thank-you card. From a young mother.

Lorie read the letter twice. She dabbed her eyes with filthy gloves. Not just because the words were sweet, but because she was remembering scenes from her own youthful motherhood. Life has not been easy for her. Lorie doesn’t give me many details from her personal story, but I was reared by a single mother. I can read between the sunhats.

Lorie removed a cell phone and dialed a number. A familiar one. The phone rang several times. Finally an old woman’s groggy voice answered with a yawn.

“Miss Sandy?” said Lorie. “Did I wake you? Were you sleeping?”

“No,” said the elderly voice. “I wasn’t sleeping. I was just closing my eyes and snoring.”

“I can call back.”

“I’m awake now, what’s going on? You need help?”

“No, Miss Sandy, I was just sitting here, thinking about things.”

Things.

Lorie was thinking about how, years ago, she was standing in a supermarket checkout line with a baby on her hip and a screaming toddler by the hand. Her husband had recently left her. She was broke. Life was upended.

When the cashier told Lorie the total cost of her items, Lorie nearly died. She didn’t have the cash.

An older woman in line saw the whole thing happen. The woman was Lorie’s silver-haired neighbor who lived a few doors down. They hardly knew each other, and had never exchanged more than a few hellos. The older woman stepped forward and paid for Lorie’s groceries. No questions asked. She even bought Lorie’s cigarettes.

The lady’s name was Sandy. They have been friends ever since. Sandy is 83.

“You remember that one time?” asked Lorie. “In the grocery store?”

“Yes,” said Sandy.

“I’ve always wondered, what made you do that for me? Why did you do such a nice thing for someone you hardly knew at all?”

The woman’s answer came quickly.

“Just because.”

29 comments

  1. Penn Wells - September 4, 2020 6:59 am

    Pay it forward. You will never be sorry.

    Reply
  2. Tammy S. - September 4, 2020 10:44 am

    💗💗💗

    Reply
  3. eliz - September 4, 2020 11:10 am

    Watering my coffee.

    Reply
  4. Unknown or Deleted User - September 4, 2020 11:15 am

    Sean. I was beginng to worry about how corrona has affected you. The imaginary GI and the young lady and company have restored my faith in you as a person who knows the soul of people. I have read you daily four the last two years. I believe you touch the essence of being human.just because! Grant Minton.

    Reply
  5. Barbara - September 4, 2020 11:16 am

    And I’m going to do it one day too “just because.”

    Reply
  6. KATY 8:34 a.m. - September 4, 2020 12:35 pm

    A loving and generous heart yearns to give and to empty itself upon others, because the heart that receives mercy is compelled to be merciful in kind. (St. Faustina)

    Reply
  7. Jo Ann - September 4, 2020 12:55 pm

    Thanks, Sean. You remind us that there are a great many generous, loving people out there that do things for others “just because.” We don’t hear or read about them nearly enough. Unfortunately, good deeds don’t make news.

    Reply
  8. Jan - September 4, 2020 1:18 pm

    Beautiful story, beautiful people. So good to be reminded of that in this day and time! Thanks, Sean.

    Reply
  9. Vince Wallace - September 4, 2020 1:37 pm

    Sean, well done…

    Reply
  10. Susie - September 4, 2020 1:43 pm

    Me too.

    Reply
  11. Donna - September 4, 2020 1:46 pm

    Moist eyes… just because.

    Reply
  12. Susan - September 4, 2020 1:52 pm

    Just because…
    Thank you for this reminder to open our eyes and hearts Just because of Jesus. Actions – no words – just because.

    Reply
  13. Curtis Lee Zeitelhack - September 4, 2020 1:52 pm

    Thanks, Sandy & Lorie. Just because.

    Reply
  14. billllly - September 4, 2020 1:55 pm

    A wonderful piece, Sean! Thanks for reminding us to pay it forward. Random moments of kindness can mean so much.

    Reply
  15. Jan - September 4, 2020 2:43 pm

    I too have had ‘Just because’ moments in my life! Only with me, I get a certain feeling and I start looking around, then I see someone who truly needs help. I go in and quietly pay for their items so as not to embarrass them and when they ask me why I am doing it, I tell them, “When God tells you to do something, you do it!” I have received such pleasure from knowing I have helped another person and God always provides me with the resources to help! I have been poor and I remember! God bless!

    Reply
  16. Christina - September 4, 2020 5:46 pm

    Sean, you gotta stop making us cry with these stories. Too much goodness!

    Reply
  17. Linda Moon - September 4, 2020 6:09 pm

    ‘Just because’ was good reasoning for Lorie, and it didn’t involve gaudy real estate. Like you, Sean, I was raised by a single mother whose wallet was light, but her heart was generous and big. The friendship between Lorie and Sandy because of a ‘chance’ meeting in a grocery store is a beautiful thing. I hope it lasts well beyond Sandy’s 83 years!

    Reply
  18. Vasca - September 4, 2020 6:19 pm

    God puts people in your lives…and puts you in their lives…just because. Expertise!

    Reply
  19. MAM - September 4, 2020 6:34 pm

    I haven’t cried this hard in months, maybe years. So sweet and it moisturizes my dry eyes. Thanks. Because God told us to! Just because!

    Reply
  20. Tom - September 4, 2020 6:40 pm

    Good one. We all should do that more often – I will.

    Reply
  21. Mary Cissell - September 4, 2020 7:07 pm

    Sean, thank you so much for your emails. They are always excellent, some more touching than others. Thank you for reminding me how blessed I am.

    Reply
  22. Chasity Davis Ritter - September 4, 2020 10:45 pm

    And just because ….that is how love happens. How compassion changes the the world… or at least someone’s small part in it…. just because my aunt thought I might like one of your blogs my life is changed daily. Just because….

    Reply
  23. Celia - September 5, 2020 2:20 am

    Telling you this not to brag but to share how we do this. We live in a small town so the grocery clerks know us. We tell them to pay for groceries for someone in need, and let us know so we can pay the store. They are told if asked who was doing this, to say “ Jesus”. It’s an easy thing to do, and benefits many, but mostly us!

    Reply
  24. Sandi. - September 5, 2020 6:27 am

    Penn Wells’ comment is spot on: “Pay it forward. You will never be sorry.” Amen to that sage remark.
    This is a precious story, Sean, and a beautiful reminder to be alert to the needs of others less fortunate.

    Reply
  25. KAY - September 5, 2020 2:02 pm

    When we recognize that we have received mercy, we are more able (and willing) to give mercy.

    Reply
  26. turtlekid - September 5, 2020 2:54 pm

    ❤️❤️❤️💟💟💟💙💙💙🌈🌈🌈🍩🍩🍩🏆🏆🏆✝️✝️✝️

    Reply
  27. allisvant - September 6, 2020 6:16 pm

    No matter how bad my morning may be, it improves greatly when I read your blog.
    The human heart has capacity for good, but the “fundamentalist whack job”, led by the Holy Spirit has greater!

    Thank you, Susan, Jan, & Celia!

    Reply
  28. Jerri Whitlow - September 7, 2020 1:03 am

    Miss your stories and eager to read again.

    Reply
  29. Denise DeVries - September 8, 2020 11:53 am

    Love. Always Pay it foraward when you can..

    Reply

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