Friday, July 18, 2008

Instant Karma Gonna Get You

You know the old saying, "What goes around comes around?" Well, if you've ever had any doubt of its validity, let me give you a fine example of how karma came back around and hit me right in the face.

Friday night, after his full day at work and my day of general insanity, my husband and I met up to go grocery shopping. This undertaking is normally done by me alone, but because we needed EVERYTHING (not only were the cupboards pretty much bare in our house, but we also needed to replenish cleaning supplies, toiletries, and various other items), I knew that this particular venture was going to be a two-carriage ordeal. Therefore, I needed an extra set of strong hands to push what I only assumed would be bulging carriage number two.

We'd managed to drop off our oldest child at the Boys and Girls' Club before we headed out. However, we still had our two daughters. On the drive to the grocery store, I all but prayed the Novena, hoping that both of them would behave. We had the end of the day exhaustion to deal with – we didn't need cranky, fighting kids on top of it.

The good news about going grocery shopping late on a Friday is that the place is almost deserted. Still, after almost two hours of walking up and down the aisles, we chugged up to the register with our two VERY full shopping carts, only to have two people behind us by the time we'd finished unloading the merchandise, waiting to pay for their own goods.

After all the ringing up, and coupon scanning, the grand total came to a whopping $297 and change. I pulled my trusty ATM card out of my wallet, and swiped it through… and almost keeled over when the cashier said that the card was declined due to insufficient funds. The problem was all mine… I'd COMPLETELY forgotten that the bank we do our business with recently cut their daily ATM withdrawal limit back from $500 a day to $300, and earlier in the day, as I was running around doing some errands, I'd taken some cash out of a local ATM machine.

At this point in time, not only were my girls starting to get grumpy and fussy, and VERY hungry, but the people behind us started grumbling to themselves, as well. The moaning and groaning increased as the pimply-faced, "assistant" manager was called over to assess the situation. The way I figured it, the solution was simple… I'd just write the grocery store a check. No can do, Mr. 17-year-old Assistant Broom Sweeper told me. I needed a store-brand variety check-cashing card. And of course, I'd never thought of obtaining one 'cause I'd never run into this particular problem before. He called Mr. Head Honcho Manager guy over to verify his decision, and yesserie… we needed that little piece of plastic to write the store a check. He also informed me that if we'd come to the store during the day, they could probably have accepted the check by verifying the available funds in the bank. However, because it was 8:00 in the evening (no WONDER our kids were so grumpy AND hungry!!), and the banks were closed, there was no way they could do that. Gee Mr. Head Honcho… too bad we didn't have a container of salt in our grocery cart… I'd have dug it out and poured it all over the gaping wound I had in my gut, made even deeper by your sharing that little gem of information with me!

So, my husband and I had one of two decisions to make. We either needed to use the cash I had on hand, and combine that with the remaining funds I was allowed to extract from the bank using the ATM card to purchase what we could with that. The problem with that particular fix was, in order to accomplish that, we'd need to pick through the groceries and pull out about $80 worth of stuff. Just about as overwhelming as being told we had to climb Mount Everest at that particular point in time. Solution number two wasn't much better: leave ALL the stuff there, and go through all of the picking and choosing and ringing up ALL OVER AGAIN on Sunday, with three children this time. Now we were looking at the hike up Mt. Everest and Mt. Fuji, back to back.

Throughout all of this, I was trying to pacify my increasingly grumpy daughters, and ignore the people behind me all together, who I'm sure were pretty ticked off, and were probably considering coming back another day themselves. Just then, I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was the man standing directly behind me, waiting to pay for his TEENY grocery order. I thought for sure he was going to ream me out for being so inconvenienced, but what came out of his mouth instead was nothing short of miraculous. "How much cash are you short?" The suggestion he was making was so incomprehensible to me, that I must have asked him to repeat himself, because he re-stated; "I can loan you some cash to get your groceries. How much would you need to buy everything in both of your carriages?" I stood there for a moment, just blinking at him (and probably catching flies with my mouth gaping open). I honestly couldn't believe that someone, besides my own little family, could be so incredibly HUMAN as to even suggest such a thing! I choked up the words, "About eighty bucks." To which he replied, "Oh, I'm sorry. I don't have that much cash on me." I'll have to admit, even though I couldn't possibly consider accepting such a kind offer, I still felt a bit deflated when he said it.

Okay. Back to the business of deciding what to do. My husband had all but convinced me to just leave the groceries behind, and have us give it another go on Sunday, when the man behind me spoke up again. "Why don't you let me pay for your groceries, and you can write me out a check?" I turned around to face him, in what felt like slow motion, and blurted out, "Are you sure you want to do that? You don't even know me!" He said, "Sure I'm sure. You can't leave all that food behind, when it's obvious you've got little kids to feed. Tell you what… if it'll make you feel better, you can give me some cash, and pay me the rest with a check, if that's all right with you." If that's all right with ME??? Was he kidding me? Here was this guardian angel, willing to trust a total stranger in this world full of uncertainty and doubt, and he was asking me if it was all right??!! Again, I asked, "Are you sure you can afford to do this?" I think I was just waiting for Alan Funt to pop out with his camera crew, or more realistically, for this man to tell me that he was just playing some kind of cruel joke. With our current track record of disappointment and disillusionment, that would have been more appropriate. But, instead, he took out his (Platinum!) Discover Card, ready to swipe it through the machine for us… people he didn't even know… and said, "If you can afford to spare $100, I'll take that, and you can make the rest out in a check to me, okay?"

My husband and I both just stood there for a moment, completely dumbfounded, and then snapped out of it enough to shake his hand, and thank him profusely for his generosity. Once I realized the full depth of the situation that was playing out before me, I took him in my arms in an embrace, trying like heck to hold back the tears of joy and gratitude, as I went about the business of writing a check out to this amazing man.

So… Jim Cataldo… if you're out there, reading this, please know that because of you, I now firmly believe in karma. I'm finally convinced that what I've fought so hard to believe in my heart and preach to my children - by making charitable contributions and bestowing goodwill, without wanting or needing any kind of reciprocation - have all been paid back by your random act of kindness. We thank you, Jim, for not only allowing us to leave the store that evening with our bounty intact, but much more importantly, for restoring our faith in humanity, just in the nick of time. Thank you, so very much.

~~Originally posted on my MySpace blog on May 9, 2007

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