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.
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?