Tuesday, February 15, 2011

My life in three minutes - 2/15/2011

A friend created this for me. Fifty-eight years in 3 minutes. You will have to pause my playlist for maximum enjoyment.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

A Cosmic Event - 2/10/2011

I haven’t made a blog post in quite some time. It is a combination of apathy and laziness that seems to define me as of late. I have not been inspired to produce more than an occasional smartass comment on my Facebook page. But I had an experience yesterday that is worthy of a mention.

I am not a philanthropist by any means. I do the occasional bit of charity, but it certainly doesn’t define my life. I get pleasure from donating food to my friend, Scott Mann’s annual Marathon for Meals and my daughter in-law Tia’s Polar Plunge. I adopt a child and a geezer from the angel trees every Christmas. I never deny a Shriner when they are risking life and limb at busy intersections. I donate my used crap to Habitat for Humanity and play in charity golf tournaments from time to time. All of these small efforts always give me a good feeling. I would probably do more if I had the means, but I am on the bottom end of the economic food chain.

All of the largesses mentioned above are anonymous. I never see the recipient, nor do they know who I am. I have always thought I would enjoy seeing the joy of a needy child opening a present that I purchased specifically for him/her, or the enjoyment of a family having a nutritional meal because of me. It is not that I want credit for my altruism. That is not it at all. It is that I would like to share in that joy, albeit invisibly.

I guess that is enough back-story. On to what happened yesterday. Those that know me know that I am not a religious person at all. I do not think that religion has any connection whatsoever to being a good person. But I do believe that everything in our lives happens for a reason. Call it what you like. I am going to call it a cosmic experience.

I was taking my purchases through the freak show that is Walmart, to a cashier. It was not a busy time so there weren’t a lot of checkout options. The first cashier I approached had just turned her light off and was heading for her end of shift bourbon. I was all the way on the pharmacy side of the store because I had purchased some Mucinex-D, with the hopes of being able to breathe in the near future. As those of you with chronic allergies know, anything with a freaking “D” in the name requires a complete background check for fear that a 24 count pack is the beginnings of a meth lab. I know from watching Breaking Bad, that it takes a whole bunch of “D” to turn a profit in the cooking of methamphetamine.

The next aisle was the cigarette aisle, where there is always a line because the customer and the cashier cannot agree on which of the 50 different types of Marlboro is optimum for their particular habit. The only other checkout stand lights were all the way down on the grocery store end. I hate going down there because there is always someone trying to pay for their groceries with a check drawn on the National Bank of Guatemala or trying to use a debit card without any money in the bank.
Here is where it gets cosmic. Shoppers with overflowing baskets seemed to just beat me to a lighted check-out stand. But there was one that nobody seemed to be going to, though there was only one customer in line. What I thought was my good fortune turned out to be much more than that. It was a young mother of three who was attempting to pay with an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card. It was obvious that the amount of credit left on the card was much less than the cost of the groceries in her basket. She was deciding which items were most important and leaving the rest in the cart. She was handing the items one at a time to a very testy cashier and watching the total to see what else she could purchase. One of the items that were left in the cart was a small, decorated, birthday cake, obviously for one of the children. There was nothing in the basket that was frivolous or unnecessary.

When she had exhausted her EBT grubstake, she began to sift through her wallet and found a few dollars. The cashier totaled up her EBT purchase and, with a heavy sigh, asked impatiently if there was anything else. The lady looked helplessly at the little bit of cash in her hand and longingly at the birthday cake, and shook her head.

Suddenly, I heard myself say to the cashier as I held up my overused MasterCard, “I will get the rest of that.” They both looked at me like I was out of my mind. I was in agreement with that conclusion, but could not stop myself. Restraint and self-control have never been my long suits. She tried to talk me out of it, but stubbornness IS my long suit. I started to help her hand the rest of the contents of the cart to the indifferent cashier. There was chicken, potatoes, stew meat, beans, corn, hamburger, hotdogs, hotdog buns, rice…………..and a birthday cake.

Both of us were crying as I ran my credit card (for different reasons). I had seen the total. I had the feeling this was the first break she had experienced in quite some time. I declined when she tried to force the bit of money into my hand. As she left with her family’s subsistence, she hugged me and called me an angel. My friends know that I am no angel, but for that brief moment, I knew how angels feel. It was the best day I have had in memory.

I did not make a conscious decision to act in this manner. Something came over me and took control. You can call it God if it makes you feel good. I will call it a cosmic event. Omnia causa fiunt. I am not writing this piece to seek praise or reflect myself in a positive light. “I am not that kind of angel.”