It was just another day in the grocery store, only a couple hours into my shift when my friend and fellow “management trainee” John grabbed my arm in passing. At the end of his shift and in a hurry to leave, he explained that a woman called in requesting a large order he wouldn’t have time to fill. He asked our bosses about filling the order and they had already told him “we don’t have the time.”

There are multiple things wrong with this situation.

  1. I may only be a trainee, but I do know one thing: we have the time. In my own head I’ve likened working at the grocery store to being in prison (a la Crime and Punishment for all you literary nerds). There are only so many things for you to do in ten hours – do them one at a time and do them slowly.
  2. As corporate loves to brainwash into us over and over and over and over again, the customer comes first. You’d have to be an idiot not to realize making this lady happy is only going to mean one giant order ($), great word-of-mouth ($$) and repeat visits ($$$). That’s just good business. Apparently, I work with idiots.
  3. It’s f-ing Christmas. Have a freaking heart.

So I took her name and phone number and the reporter inside me took over. I ended up on the phone with this lady for a half hour while she explained that her husband was recently admitted to the hospital with a potentially fatal issue. She felt the overwhelming inspiration to just plain do something good for the world – hoping a little good karma would put her soul at ease for a while – and her church just happened to be running a food drive for needy families. They were creating holiday baskets and had a wish list the congregation had picked over; they were still lacking lots of items before the baskets were complete.

She had decided to finish off the list herself and a hefty list it was: 48 boxes of pancake mix, 25 packets of gravy mix, 32 bottles of vegetable oil, 29 cans of frosting…It took me two hours to fill two baskets with her order. I had two checkers pre-ringing her transaction in a separate lane when I was paged to customer service. I’d never met this woman and she knew me as soon as I saw her – she was already waving from across check lanes as I was approaching the desk.

“Desiree? We have a little something for you.”

I glanced down and noticed tiny people (children, not midgets) glaring up at me and each handed me an ornament: small rustic-style angels.

“This is because you were my angel today.” This is the part where I started to tear up a little.

“With three kids and a husband in the hospital, I would’ve never had time to come in and do this myself. I can’t thank you enough.” That day, working in the grocery store was worth it.

Merry Christmas.