Friday, May 8, 2015


Last Friday I was at the grocery, like many good people in Howard County, buying food and personal care products to send into Baltimore to help people whose neighborhoods had been damaged by looting and store closures. I've heard that the response to Dylan Goldberg's and Courtney Watson's call for food and assistance was pretty amazing. My older daughter and I chipped in and shopped together.

It felt good to be able to do something to help.

Last night my younger daughter and I were getting dinner at Subway and my debit card was declined. I was dumbfounded. That hasn't happened to me for many, many years. I was sure it was a mistake. It wasn't. My direct deposit was going to go in at midnight but at seven pm in Hickory Ridge I was broke.

I normally keep a very close eye on how much I have in my account at all times, a habit ingrained from the days I was a single parent, working two jobs, and barely making it. I guess I was so sure I had enough to make it that I let that slip. Bad idea.

I was now in the line at Subway, digging through my purse to find cash and I had only seven dollars.

"How much do you need?" said a voice behind me.

She was African-American, dressed professionally. My daughter and I were in t-shirts and jeans. She opened her purse.

Oh no, no. I didn't want to take her help. I wanted to be able to solve it some other way. I asked the clerk if I could go home and come back with the rest.

The woman behind me interjected, in a matter-of-fact tone.

"All you have to do is say thank you very much and we can get this over with."

She was holding out a five dollar bill. I took it. I thanked her very much. I gave it to the clerk, who was embarrassed on my behalf. I thanked everyone.

I went back to the table to eat dinner with my daughter. I felt about two inches tall.

My paycheck went in at midnight. I have money again and my sense of feeling financially secure has been restored. I'm not going to be "that person" who gums up the works. (And I'm going to keep a really close eye on my balance. What was I thinking?)

But I had that moment. A little moment of being "wrong", standing out for being an inconvenience to everyone. I felt like a deadbeat. I had to accept help from a stranger. I was grateful but I still felt awful.

For me it's just an anomaly. I'm left with a cringe-worthy anecdote and a resolve to be more careful. But there's quite a few lessons here for me to learn, I think.

Thank you, generous woman at the Hickory Ridge Subway. I promise to pay it forward. And I promise to think beyond the moment.

Once I get over feeling two inches tall.


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