Yesterday I was at Target comparing brands of facial cleanser. I am super-cheap about this kind of stuff.
A woman said “Excuse me.” She was in her thirties, I would guess, a woman of olive complexion and dark hair, with an infant strapped onto her chest. She said, “I ask you in the name of Jesus.”
I must have looked confused, because she repeated it twice more. Finally I got it, and said, “Ask me what?”
She gestured to her shopping cart, which had 4 cans of Enfamil in it.
“Do you need money?” I asked.
“No! No! I need help buying these.” Her English was broken.
“Do you need help with your food stamps or something? With WIC?”
“I no have papers. I no ask for money,” she said. “I ask for my child.”
“Do you want me to take these to the register and buy them for you?” I asked. “How much do they cost?”
“Forty,” she said.
“Jiminy crickets this stuff is expensive!”
The baby started to squirm. She pulled a small bottle out of her bag. She proceeded to feed the baby, looking apologetic.
“Is that your baby?” I asked. “Can you nurse it?”
“No, I have Crohn’s disease,” she said. She gestured toward her breast, inviting me to notice that it was not full. She and I had full eye contact with each other. She looked tired and worried. The baby had a full head of dark hair, but was probably only two months old.
I thought: Maybe she is scamming me.
I thought: OK, maybe she is. I can live with that.
I told her: “Let’s go,” and put 2 of the cans in my cart. I wheeled to the register and paid for them. The clerk gave me a good coupon with the receipt — $7 off the next purchase of Enfamil — so I gave it to her, along with the receipt. We were both all teary-eyed. I said, “God bless you,” and she said, “Thank you Jesus.”
Then I was afraid she would ask more of me and I ducked back into the store. But I couldn’t stand it — I had to come back out and see what she did next. She put the coupon away very carefully into a wallet. Then she pulled out a scarf to cover the baby’s head, and went out into the sunny day. She walked with just a bit of a waddle to the very far corner of the parking lot, to where a minivan was parked under a tree. She put the baby into its seat, then drove away.
I have no idea what I expected to happen.
With tears rolling down my face, I texted my husband: “At Target. Spent $80 on baby formula for a stranger.” The phone immediately binged with his response. “Sounds good.” (Which is why I’m tagging this, “Why I still love my husband”)
I couldn’t think why she approached me. Then my hand went to my neck, to the small Jerusalem cross I wear on a chain.
I don’t think that wearing a cross ever cost me anything before.
What would you have done?