Healthy Eats

Mom's Touching Post to Stranger at the Grocery Store Goes Viral

Andrea Gardner is just a regular mom who like many people these days is struggling to put food on the table after her husband was laid off last fall. Her family has been put "through the wringer," and they now rely on government assistance to feed their kids.

She was out shopping with her kids recently but was unable to pay for the few simple groceries she'd picked up, because the store's EBT machine was down and she didn't have her debit card or any cash with her. The random act of kindness that was then shown to her by a stranger moved her so much that she wrote an open letter "To the Woman Behind Me at the Grocery Store" on her blog.

The post went viral, and it's easy to see why. Andrea's gratitude for this good Samitarian's kindness extends beyond the $17.38 she paid for her groceries. It's apparent in her words that the most valuable thing that woman did for her wasn't to just pay her bill, but offer comfort, hope, and encouragement. She wrote:

You didn't judge me. You didn't snarl "Maybe you should have less kids." You didn't say "Well, get a job and learn to support yourself." You didn't look away in embarrassment or shame for me. You didn't make any assumptions at all.

What you did was you paid that $17.38 grocery bill for us. You gave my kids bananas, yogurt, apple juice, cheese sticks, and a peach ice tea for me; a rare treat and splurge. You let me hug you and promise through my tears that I WILL pay this forward. I WILL pay someone's grocery bill for them. That $17.38 may not have been a lot for you, but it was priceless to us. In the car my kids couldn't stop gushing about you; our "angel in disguise." They prayed for you. They prayed you would be blessed. You restored some of our lost faith. One simple and small action changed our lives. You probably have forgotten about us by now, but we haven't forgotten about you. You will forever be a part of us even though we don't even know your name.

You really should read the whole thing -- it's beautiful and will restore your faith in humanity.

We got in touch with Andrea to find out why she decided to write the post, what she wants to instill in her kids, and how she manages to get through challenging times without succumbing to bitterness.

Why did you decide to write the post? Has the reaction surprised you?

When I originally wrote my post I wrote it for friends and family. I wanted them to see that someone they love is cared for ... I never in a million years expected my simple blog post to 'blow up' the way it did. I have people all over the world reading what I have written! I am humbled. I love how many people are sharing their stories with me. It is touching and I feel honored they trust me with them.

You seem to be raising some pretty awesome kids there -- do you consciously try to instill gratitude and generosity in your parenting?

Gratitude and generosity are expected in my house. They always have been. I allow my children to see the real world. They have seen kids in foster care, they have seen the homeless, the sick, the forgotten. They know that right now we get help from the government and they are thankful. They were all born with loving hearts and I cater to that so that when they are adults they can help raise up the next generation in the same manner. It is when we lose those qualities that I fear for the world.

My children are taught that Jesus gave to the poor and healed the sick. He didn't make friends with the rich or care what people thought about him. He associated with the outcasts and changed their lives in the most amazing ways. My children love to give. I think we forget that children are probably the most compassionate people in the world and should be allowed to volunteer and give back. In all honestly I think they teach me more than I teach them.

How do you find strength to do that when life has dealt you a rough blow recently?

First I believe in God. I believe He is compassionate and full of mercy and grace. I have seen His hand in our lives. He has made sure we are cared for. Things could be so much worse. I am well aware of this and I continually point out God's blessings to my children. My husband and children are also my strength. I have to think of them. They do the same for me. When I am having a hard day, my kids will hug me and talk to me. They are pretty much the definition of awesome. My husband is my backbone. He is seriously amazing and I have so much respect for him.

What do you want people to take away from your story?

I want people to stop being cynical and instead to simply allow themselves to be blessed. I want people to step up. You do not have to be rich to pay it forward. Help the mom (or anyone!) put her groceries in her car, go to the nursing home and play chess with an elderly patient, offer to help paint a local school, volunteer to be a role model to an at-risk kid. There is so much people can do and if through all of this more people are blessed and give then I know I did something right.

Are you inspired by Andrea's story to commit a random act of kindness?


Image via Andrea Gardner

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JS0512 JS0512

I was so touched by this story & it really hit home with me.  A few years ago when my youngest was still an infant we had fallen on some hard times.  I went to the grocery store on the day my WIC "allowance" recharged.  I had a four tubs of formula, apple juice, Cheerios, cheese & assorted fruits and veggies.  My total was over a hundred dollars and when I swiped my EBT card and it was declined.  Turned out I was off by a day and the benefits didn't start until the NEXT day.  I immediately went red in the face and was holding back tears.  I told the cashier that I was sorry & I'd only take one tub of formula.  The woman in line behind me gently pushed me aside & swiped her credit card.  She picked up the ENTIRE tab.  I started crying and we hugged and the cashier started crying and came over to hug the lady also.  I asked for her address so I could pay her back & she refused.  Said that it was more or less the amount of money she donates at church each week.  She has no idea how much that meant to me, and that it honestly changed me a little.  I still sometimes think it was a dream!  I didn't think people like that were still out there.  But they obviously are!  It's so great to see another positive story like this in the news.

nonmember avatar jaime

This happened to me once...my boyfriend and I had just moved into a new town, basically on a hope and prayer that there would be jobs there. He had found a job, I was still looking and it took the whole check to make rent and gas with very little left over for food. We went shopping because we thought his direct deposit had hit, but when we got to the checkout it hadn't. At least $40 worth of food, and a little old man walked up when we heard we couldn't pay and covered it, wouldn't take no for an answer. He gave us one of those little Jesus loves you booklets too...I've been handed those before but that was the first time I actually read it. I mean here we are, two twenty something's, no kids...from the outside it looks like we shouldn't need help yah know? And this guy helped us no questions asked. I still think of that guy all the time.

Stephanie Anne-Marie McDaniel

we have had this happen too, a guy bought $15 worth of meat bc we didnt have enough on our card (thought we did) and i told the cashier we would put it back but he bought it.  So in return i do this everytime someone needs help. ive only been able to help about 3 times, small amounts, but i do what i can

cafem... cafemommamary

I had a nice thoughtful mom help me out too.. we were standing in a long line at the rec center waiting to sign up our tots for soccer.. when we finally made it in the center there was big sign that said chash/check only.. and I forgot both.. and only credit card. The mom in front of me said not to worry she would pay my fee ($80) and I could just mail her a check. I was so touched ! I sent her a nice thankyou card and repaid adding a few extra dollars.. it would have been so easy for her to just do nothing and I would have to lose my place in line run home .. get check book and then wait in line again.. thank you soccer mom !

Victoria Gaunt

If I ever saw a person who needed a few dollars to help pay for groceries, I would do my best to help them. I try to always carry a few dollars with me to do so. I have a lot to be grateful for, and I know there are so many people in the world who are not as fortunate as I am.

OliviaW. OliviaW.

I recently helped someone in the grocery line. Her debit card was denied because she didn't have the funds and she was short on the cash. I covered her bill. She was crying and I told her to pay it forward because everyone needs a help every now and then. 

nonmember avatar Allie

Something along these lines just happened to me two days ago. Sticking to a strict food budget i had to ask the cashier to remove some items from our checkout bags and declined to purchase a bag of oranges, cornstarch, and a container of animal crackers. She understood and did. My daughter asked me for a pack of bubble gum and I had to tell her no. We checked out and were loading what we did buy into our trunk when the man who stood behind me dressed in medical scrubs appeared and handed me the bags of groceries that I couldn't afford. I just couldn't believe it...and then he said "I hope it's okay, "reached in his pocket and handed my daughter the pack of gum she asked for. I nearly cried at his gesture. My heart just overflowed. I think my daughters smile said it all to him too. Like in this article it was less than $20 of items and I'm sitting here eating one of the oranges now...I'll likely think of him every time I eat an orange now.

nonmember avatar Anonymous

I had the opportunity to do this for a family one time. A mom and two kids had some kind of payment problem for a few items and I overheard that they would have to leave their cart, go home and get some other form of payment, and come back and pay for it. Some of their things were frozen, and the kids were young, so this seemed absurd. I happily picked up their tab. I've actually forgotten my own wallet at home, not realizing until checkout, and it's all very awkward. Glad to see other people out there willing to help each other out.

nonmember avatar Shannon

I also has something similiar happen. I had been out of work for 3 months and was waiting on my unemployment to come through. I had been donating plasma for some gas money and I was down to my last $2.00. I had offered to take my sister/nephew to school to help out my mom, but my tank was literally on E. I went to the gas station and sheepishly paid my last $2.00 for gas and prayed it would be enough to get us across town (drive a older mini van.) I was just about to put the cap back on when a lady came out and approached me-she was the district manager for this gas station-she said she wanted to help me out. She ran her personal card for $10.00 more in gas. During a lean time, it was such a blessing.

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