Serendipity in the checkout line

One man, two generous gestures.


As the cashier rang up my total, a fellow in boots, jeans, and a sweatshirt walked up behind me at the checkout carrying a single item – a vase of red roses and ferny greens. I couldn't help noticing the $25 price tag and wondering about his generous impulse. Did he have a new relationship to nourish? An old one to shore up after a falling out? Were pricey cut flowers likely to do the trick?

I don't make a habit of pondering about the lives of strangers, but the image of this burly workingman and the delicate vase worth more than my groceries for the next few days triggered a smile and a moment of private musing as I reached in my pocket for the $20 bill and four cents I needed. The little bouquet seemed so incongruous against his plain work clothes, so extravagant given the economic stringencies affecting most of us in grocery lines of late.

I was pulled back to my pocket search as I fumbled for some change clearly not there. Reluctantly I pulled out my other $20 bill to cover the four cents. This was not missed on the gent with the flowers.

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"Here you go, I've got four cents," he offered, opening his palm to the cashier.

Touched, I thanked him effusively, adding with a nod to the vase, "You're obviously a very nice guy."

"I try to be" he said with a sigh, hinting at the possibility the roses were a kind of rueful atonement. "It doesn't always work."

"Oh, it will. Over time, things always come around," I assured this perfect stranger. I thanked him once more as I left, buoyed by the gesture that left my last $20 intact for another day. He may have stretched his resources for a sweetheart, but he'd made my day for a mere four cents. He probably didn't even need those roses.

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