Do you know those round metal pieces you get back after you pay with the real, paper money? They have presidents on them like Lincoln and Jefferson. I believe that a big silver circle and two round copper shapes can change someone’s life.
It was sometime in the middle of February, a little boy around the age of ten was standing in front of me in line. He had this lovely red and pink sweater sitting on the conveyor belt and an enormous smile on his face. I was standing behind him with a red basket over flowing with groceries; I should never grocery shop when I’m hungry.
It was finally the little boy’s turn to check out. The cashier was an elderly lady and wrinkles covered her face. She had a shocked expression in her eyes, yet still used her bland, monotone voice to greet the customer. As the scanner passed the bar code and made that annoying beep, the boy stared at the lady with eyes of intent. She read the total out loud in an even more drowning voice than before. The boy shifted through his pockets and pulled out crumpled bills and various sorts of change.
At this time, my arms had red lines on them from holding the heavy basket. Several people behind me in line decided to leave and give a stab at another register for faster service. Even though I was starving, I didn’t mind because I was next in line. As he counted all the money that he had, his face grew more gloomy and nervous. I can’t remember the exact total, but he was short some change. I understand that as a cashier, you can’t lend out money to whomever you want. The elderly lady did her job and didn’t give in to the boy’s blue, puppy eyes.
He turned to me with the look of desperation and told his story. As he spoke I couldn’t help but want to get one my knees and hug him. He needed this sweater for his mommy, for she is always lonely in this month since daddy had moved to heaven. I put my heavy groceries down and searched through my purse for any change I had. He needed precisely 27 cents and I found loads of change at the bottom of my purse and pulled out a quarter and two pennies. His blue eyes widened as I placed the coins in his hand.
Off he went, with a grin from ear to ear and a bag in his hand. The senior cashier now had a different expression on her face; like her spirit had been uplifted. Instead of silently saying hello, she looked into my eyes and expressed what a nice thing that was. I simply explained that it was only a few cents. I smiled at her and told her thank you as I bent over to pick up my bags of groceries. As I was walking away I noticed the ageing, wrinkly cashier didn’t use her dull, monotone voice again. Instead , she asked how the person was and actually sounded intrigued.
As I explained before, I believe in sharing change; not only the change as in money, but change in how a simple act can influence someone’s behavior.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.