Strangers at the grocery store: they keep us coming back

October 1, 2013

A few weeks ago on a Friday morning, my son woke up and without warning covered his mouth and ran for the bathroom. Yep, he was sick. School had just started and all I could think was: oh great, here we go. I checked on him and escorted him back to bed turning on some cartoons.

“You feeling okay, Bean?” I asked my daughter.


“You sure?”


“Okay. Well, if that changes, be sure someone calls me right away.”

And with that, I watched her bounce out our front door, skip down the driveway and get on the bus. Then, I emailed her teacher at school, and my son’s teacher, to let them know we were experiencing some sickness at home.

After telling my son there would be no school he burst into tears assuring me he was fine. “Me not sick, Mommy. Me not sick.” As he pleaded with me for hours, I re-bundled him in blankies starting movies he didn’t care to watch, telling him over and over that when you’re sick you have to stay home. Finally, around 2:30, he fell asleep.

Of course, as luck would have it, minutes before three o’clock the nurse from my daughter’s school called, “Is this Heidi?”


“This is the nurse at . . .”

Uh-huh, Bean was in the nurse’s office feeling like she was about to puke. So, I woke up Bubba, my sick son, and blankie and bunny in hand, we loaded into our truck, backed out of the driveway, and drove to the school.

On our way from the truck to the front door, he skipped and twirled and flew his blanket through the air announcing, “Me not sick. Me not sick. Me-e not siiiick.”

Nice, huh?

The second I rounded the corner of the office, my eyes catching a glimpse of Bean’s pale, sad face, I knew: Definitely Sick. We accepted a plastic bag from the nurse, and walked back to class to get my daughter’s backpack me encouraging, “Cover your mouths, guys. We don’t want to spread germs.”

Bean cried as she grabbed her things from class, and her teacher said, “We’ve had a few sick kiddos already this year. Get better.”

Exiting the building, it dawned on me . . . I have nothing at home to help my little ones through their belly aches. No 7UP. No bread (we had used the last pieces this morning). No Jell-O. No Gingerale. Crap! Two sick kids and nothing they will be able to keep down. Now what? To the grocery store, I guess.

Lucky for us the grocery store is only a few blocks from our home. On our way home from the school, we stopped.

“Okay guys, you gotta stay close and listen. We’re gonna go in and grab a few things, quickly. You can pick out a movie, but we have to be quick, okay?”

“Yes, Mommy.”

They both shook their heads and agreed to listen while we ran through the store.

We barely got through the automatic doors grabbing our shopping basket when I heard my daughter holler, “Mom!” Turning to look back, I spotted panic on her face, her hands covering her mouth, “Someone’s in the bathroom. It’s locked.”

Near the deli, I walked over to the woman washing the counter and shouted, “Give me that garbage can, please,” as I pointed to the large black bin behind her.

She stopped washing the counter and looked at me very confused. Moving my pointing to my daughter, I explained, “Sorry, she’s gonna be sick. Get the can please.”

She turned quickly, pushing the large garbage bin over to the deli opening where my daughter ran and hovered while I went to check the bathroom again. Able to open the door, I called out, “Come on, hon. You can get into the bathroom.”

Bean stood in the bathroom a minute while we waited outside the door. I apologized to the deli woman again, and thanked her for the use of the garbage can. Nothing like having a woman you don’t know demand your garbage can. Then watching a little girl make heave motions, while you’re trying to work.

“I think I’m okay,” I heard from the bathroom.

“You sure, honey? Think you can make it through the store?”

“Yeah. Hey Mom, can we pick out the movie?”

“After we grab what we need.”

And with that we were practically running through the aisles grabbing 7UP, Gingerale, Jell-O of all flavors, milk, bread and saltine crackers. (Yes, of all things, I forgot chicken noodle soup!)

“Okay, pick a movie. No fighting.”

I hated the thought of them touching anything knowing they were both sick, but what would we do when we got home? We needed to get a few movies. Wreck-It Ralph, Epic and The Guardians made their way to the checkout lane with us.

A slender woman with dark hair smiled as she scanned each of our items. The kids stood next to me, both of them pale white, looking at cookies, candy and pens on the counter.

“Hey Mom, can we . . .”


And that was that.

Just as our final items were being scanned, the woman from the deli appeared. “Well, you’re looking better, honey. Are you feeling better?”


“I hope you get all better soon,” she smiled.

Smiling back I thanked her again. And I said to the cashier, “What do you do when you have two sick kids and nothing you need at home?”

Understanding, she nodded her head assuring, “You go to the grocery store.”

I knew that, but it was nice to hear her say it. It was nice to be okay with the fact that sickness happens and you do what you have to do to deal with it. And it was nice to feel like the cashier and the woman in the deli, people I don’t know, cared that my children were okay, and they both were wishing us well.

The boy bagging groceries insisted on carrying the bags for me, so I let him. I held my children’s hands, wishing the cashier and the woman from the deli a good weekend. And the kind boy too, after he loaded my bags of groceries for me into my truck.

The kids and I climbed in, sat down, and clicked our seat belts into place. Everyone feeling like they could make it the few blocks home, we drove out of the grocery store parking lot with a smile. Sick, we left happy because strangers took a moment to show they care.

So, this evening the kids and I plan to create some special thank you cards for the woman in the deli and the lady at the cash register and the boy who bagged and carried our groceries. On an average day they certainly would have made a great difference, but on a day when I had my hands full with two sick babies . . . their willingness to help and provide a smile meant even more.

Cheers to the people at the grocery store who, average day or not, keep us coming back because they share their smiles, their kindness, and their willingness to always help.

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