By Genevieve A. Suzuki | Gen-X in a Millennial World
Last month I had an encounter at the La Mesa Springs Shopping Center that reminded me of the importance of compassion for our fellow humans.
I had just picked up my son, Deacon, from preschool. We needed to go grocery shopping that day so he asked to go to the “big Vons” rather than the one closer to our home.
Immediately after we parked, a woman with two young sons approached me and asked for money she could use to buy them dinner. She looked to be around my age and one of her sons sat without shoes in an old stroller.
I told her honestly I didn’t have cash, but would have given it to her if I had. She then asked me whether I would be willing to buy her sons something to eat. This surprised me. If she was trying to game me, she likely would have just moved on.
So I told her I would. As we walked and talked, I asked her for her name and her two sons’ names. I found out they were 4 and 7; one of her sons was just a year older than my Deacon. She told me she was trying to come back from a bad time. I told her I believed she would. I then asked her what she wanted for them and she asked for Lunchables, these ready-made meals we sometimes buy for our daughter, Quinn.
As we got to the entrance of Vons, I told her to wait for me there. Instead of two Lunchables, I decided to take a chance and buy a gift card to the store. I figured the woman could preserve dignity and get her family some food. I also hoped she would not use it to buy liquor or something to sell for quick cash.
I got in line and, realizing there were no gift cards to Vons in the checkout aisle, asked Shannon, a friendly cashier, to pick a card for me without telling her what I was going to do with it.
As I handed the woman the gift card, she looked into my eyes and said a heartfelt thank you. We shared a brief moment between two parents — between two humans — and I told the boys to be good to their mom. A short while later, while I shopped with Deacon, I heard her talking to the boys in the produce section, asking them whether they’d like a bag of apples.
But here’s the real kicker: At the end of my trip, I again got into Shannon’s checkout line. “You got that woman the gift card,” she said. I nodded, worried she was going to confirm my fears that the card had been misused. Instead, Shannon said, “That was a good thing you did. She bought only good things for her kids. There was fruit, veggies and other healthy foods.”
I’m not going to lie. I got pretty choked up. Truth is, you never know when something could go bad for you. You never know the circumstances that can lead to being in a parking lot with your children, asking a stranger for help. Who knows the woman’s story? But that day I felt really lucky to have been able to have helped another parent, and even luckier to discover my gut instinct — the one that told me to choose kindness — had won out.
— Genevieve A. Suzuki is a local attorney who lives and works in La Mesa.