Pay It Forward

“Well, I don’t have that much,” Patty said in her acerbic way. We were at a vegetable stand outside Eden Prairie, where Patty and I had stopped spontaneously one beautiful day last summer.
She stood, with her back to me, her SUV-sized walker poised in front of her, and her coin purse spilled out empty on the counter. The teenage cashier hadn’t a clue what to do and simply stood expectantly, as if more money would materialize somehow.
Patty stood with the shame and embarrassment of a kindergartner who had just wet her pants, but also with the defiance that told me she would not step down, would not pay the ridiculous price of $6 for 2 tomatoes. I ached for her, but, because of LSS rules and my understanding of Patty’s defiance, I was helpless.
And then, a woman waiting in line with her four children and her teenage nanny, did something extraordinary.
“How much do you need?” she asked, and pulled a clutch from her voluminous purse. Patty looked at her with eyes blinded by macular degeneration, The cashier, relieved to have the tension broken, piped in, “$6.” Money was exchanged for tomatoes, amid some arguments from Patty. Finally Patty asked, “what can I do for YOU?”
“Just pay it forward,” said this good Samaritan (who had sprouted wings in my eyes.)
Kay got back into the hot car, her little brown bag of tomatoes in hand. She said nothing, but the scene was a lesson that did not go unheeded. I mouthed a silent thank you to the angel who was paying for her own produce, then put Patty’s walker into the trunk and got behind the wheel.
Four children, two teenagers and one adult witnessed something they would not soon forget. Compassion and empathy live. And can be duplicated.

-Mary Jo Franske