The young man in front of me looked to be around eighteen or nineteen years old. He had several snacks and drinks in his shopping cart and the way he was unloading things onto the belt made me think he hadn’t shopped much on his own. Cans were rolling away from him and items fell over each time the belt lurched forward.
There is a private college nearby and I assumed he was a freshman student learning to live independently. As the cashier was bagging the goods another man walked up to her with a worried expression. “Do you cash checks?”, he asked in a panic. “I’ve come a long way and I really need to cash this check.”
“I’ll check with the manager”, she said and punched in some numbers to page the supervisor on duty. She continued with the college student transaction and placed the last item in the bag. “That will be $65.47 please.” The freshman pulled out his wallet and paid with $80 in twenty dollar bills. The cashier made change and as she handed it to the freshman he dropped all of his coins across the floor. I helped him gather the coins and he shoved a few in his pocket while leaving the rest in a hurry to get out of the embarrassing situation.
The desperate man was pacing in a light jacket that probably was too thin for the thirty degree weather outside. He had big glasses and a big lower jaw with teeth that looked smaller than they should. An adjustable net hat advertising a check cashing company was hanging on his forehead, mocking his desperation. The phone rang and the cashier nodded as she talked with the voice on the other side. “I’m sorry sir. We aren’t allowed to cash those checks. I’m really sorry.” Her face said she was telling the truth.
I picked up a few of the coins that the freshman had left in his mad rush and I placed them on the counter. Seven cents in all. The cashier smiled. We exchanged pleasantries; “Hi how are you?, I’m fine how are you?. Doing good..” So on and so forth. I asked her how much the check had been, he looked desperate and I can’t stand to see someone suffer even if they are responsible. She had the same thought, “Fifty dollars. It was breaking my heart but I can do it.”
“I don’t blame you. These days who can you trust?”
With my transaction finished, I moved to the parking lot. The freshman had parked directly behind me and was loading his dorm room grocery supplies into his very modest Mercedes two-seater convertible. He seemed nice and even offered to return my shopping cart for me which I allowed him to do. Fair trade for picking up coins.
I sat in my car and thought for a second about the two men and the cards they had been dealt. What would a bad day look like for each? What would a good day look like for each? What could I do to give more people good days? I had a passion to help but I had a reservation. I worried about why he needed money, would he try to rob me for more money, or did I even have spare money to give. All important questions.
Then it hit me. The irony of it all. A young college student with cash for dorm food, nice clothes and a groomed look, driving a new sports car and he had little idea of the order of things and the reality of life. He could barely manage his shopping cart. The desperate man was living on handouts and scraps, his car was likely junk if he had one, and he knew enough about life to know that things were stacked against him. Still he was polite and moved along with a continued hope that somewhere, someone would cash his check.
I wondered what he wanted to buy so badly at 11:00pm. Who knows. Not my business.
Life ain’t fair. Then again maybe it is because it picks people at random for tragedy and hard times. Regardless of money or “who my daddy is”. For once today I found myself to be happy to be average. I have less than I want but more than I need.
If you have opportunities because others helped support your dreams, this post is for you. You’re welcome. It doesn’t cheapen our success but we need to remember that some people don’t get that hand-up. That doesnt make them unimportant, lazy, or stupid. It just makes them unlucky.
-Underdaddy to the rescue