50: Grocery Store Giving

50: Grocery Store Giving

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Random Acts of Kindness

Grocery Store Giving

I feel that the greatest reward for doing is the opportunity to do more.

~Dr. Jonas Salk

A few years ago, I ceased making elaborate New Year’s resolutions and settled instead on a “word of the year.” As I began 2014, I looked forward to how the word “gift” would frame my new year.

I planned to give a gift a day for the entire year. I also intended to keep track of the gifts in a colorful little journal that a friend had handcrafted and given me as a Christmas present.

I wanted to be intentional with my giving. Some gifts would take time to prepare and present — such as the quilt top that I sewed for months and then sent to a quilting group to turn into a sleeping bag for a homeless person. Some of the other gifts I gave came about more spontaneously, such as helping a man read a label on an item at a store when he’d forgotten his reading glasses. But either way, I always tried to be on the lookout for an opportunity to serve.

Many of my gifts in 2014 involved reading to my two sons, especially at night. If I let them talk me into reading an extra chapter aloud before bedtime, I counted that as my gift of the day. Sometimes reading a picture book before we started our homeschool day was my daily gift; other times, I read to my boys at lunch. Good stories make great gifts, and reading aloud to my children creates beautiful memories.

Twice I left a few coins on an outdoor fountain for a stranger to find and toss into the water, casting a wish into the pool along with a penny or nickel. It may have cost a few cents, but I considered it an investment in brightening another person’s day. Along the way, I also brightened my own.

Other gifts I gave only once during the year, such as making a meal for a family with a newborn baby or baking a birthday cake for my husband.

One of my most repeated gifts throughout the year involved letting other customers go ahead of me in line at the grocery store. With a buggy full of food purchases and two little boys in tow, I wanted to buy my groceries and get home. But when I noticed a person standing in line behind me with only a loaf of bread or a case of bottled water, I spotted a chance to put another’s needs before my own.

Throughout the year, I spoke with my children about my gift-giving, and they enjoyed hearing my stories. Sometimes my boys would ask me, “What was your gift today?” when we settled down for bedtime at night.

When my sons and I stood in line one day at the store, organic spinach and spaghetti and fruit snacks filling our cart, my older son motioned for me to lean down to him. He cupped his little hand around my ear and whispered, “There’s somebody in line behind us, and he has only two things to buy.”

I looked behind us to verify, and sure enough, a bearded man in a jean jacket stood there with only two items. I felt my smile stretch wide across my face as I realized that my boy had joined in on the joy of giving and wanted us to be part of that together.

I motioned to the customer behind us to take our place in line. We pulled our grocery buggy back a bit and waited a few more minutes before loading our purchases onto the counter. The few extra minutes of wait time passed with my hardly realizing it. They were minutes wisely invested.

Although this act of giving didn’t qualify as something original or surprising, it remains one of my favorite gifts of 2014 — and all because I saw how my choice to give had become part of my children’s lives as well.

~Allison Wilson Lee

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