Story by Terri McPherson
I could have gone to a couple of gatherings at the homes of friends and family yesterday. I could have stayed home and curled up with a good book all day. The last thing I intended to do with a perfectly good stretch of peace and quiet, was join the throng of Boxing Day shoppers. Yet, when my husband called and asked me to meet him at the mall, I went.
Long lines of loud shoppers stood outside most of the stores. Everyone was noisy and animated. They couldn’t get into those stores fast enough to spend their money. We were surprised by the number of young people in the mall. They out- numbered the adults 2 to 1 – easy.
After my husband found what he was looking for, we grabbed a quick bite to eat in the Food Court. I felt a little restless and decided to stay behind and do some research at the book store. I grabbed a pile of reference books, found myself an empty chair, and started making notes. Four hours slipped away from me.
My daughter gave me a gift certificate from the bookstore for Christmas, so, when I was finished, I put the reference books away and strolled up and down the aisles. I found a beautiful book called ‘The Quiet Little Woman’ by Louisa May Alcott, and picked it up for my granddaughter. Then I found ‘A Memory of Christmas Tea’ by Tom Hegg, and picked that one up for myself. Since both of the books were Christmas books, they were 50% off. Perfect. My gift certificate would cover the cost of both of them.
I had an odd, aimless feeling I couldn’t shake. My research was done, my shopping was finished and I was getting tired. I’d run out of excuses to stay in the store. Finally, I left.
Since my truck had been sitting out in the cold all afternoon, I let it warm up for a few minutes before I put it into gear. While I was sitting there, I noticed a young boy in the next aisle of the parking lot. He kept ducking down. I knew he wasn’t trying to break into a car, he was in the middle of the aisle-way. The truck was parked in the farthest spot from the mall entrance, which gave me plenty of time to watch him and see what he was doing.
It wasn’t until he crossed over to the aisle I was parked in, that I realized he was bending down and picking up change off the ground. He bent down in front of my truck, and when he stood up, we made eye contact. I took him to be around ten-years-old.
In that split second, the contrast between the frenzied kids on their shopping sprees inside the mall, and the one lone kid picking up change off the ground outside the mall, was terribly apparent. The youngster in front of me was wearing one blue glove and one tan glove. His coat was about two sizes too small. The zipper was held in place with a big safety pin. As he walked away from me, I saw his shoes. They looked like they’d outlived their usefulness a couple hundred miles ago.
I rolled down my window and called him over. He came, sort of. He left a good distance between us, standing hesitantly – poised for flight. I could tell by the fearful look on his face that he half expected me to yell and chase him off. My heart hurt.
I asked him if he needed some money. His reply was instantaneous. “No, no. That’s okay.”
The parking lot was wet and slushy. I could tell his feet were cold by the way he kept shifting his weight from one foot to the other.
“Please,” I insisted, holding out a five dollar bill. “It’s not much, but when money is shared, it seems to go a lot further.”
He took a step closer. “Would it be okay if I spend it at McDonald’s?” he asked, hiking his thumb over his shoulder, in the direction of the fast food restaurant across the street.
“Sure you can,” I answered. “You can spend it wherever you like.”
He pulled off one of his gloves and reached for the money. His small hand was red and chafed. That thinly knitted glove wasn’t keeping his hand warm at all.
“Would you mind taking these off my hands,” I asked, picking up the spare pair of gloves my husband keeps in the truck. They were old, but they were good warm gloves. “I bought my husband a new pair for Christmas, but as long as he’s got these ones, those new ones will sit on the shelf at home and never get used. What do you say? Will you help me out?”
“Okay,” he answered. “I’ll help you.”
He took the five-dollar bill, stuffed it inside his glove and put the glove back on his hand. I passed him my husband’s gloves and watched him put them on. A big smile, the first one I’d seen, spread across his face. “Thanks! These are great!”
“Glad you like them kiddo,” were the only words I could get past the lump in my throat. The gloves were way too big for him… and he was so very happy to have them. Most kids his age wouldn’t be caught wearing them, period, let alone in public.
He looked over his shoulder, towards McDonalds.
“Are you hungry?” I asked.
He looked down at the ground, “Yes.”
“Me too!” I said.
He started to pull the glove off. “Do you want your money back?” he asked, with genuine concern in his voice.
“No, no. I just meant I better get home.”
After another big ‘thank you’, he turned and walked away. I watched him go. When he got to the road, he turned and waved his small hand, encased in that great big glove, at me. I waved back, put the truck in gear and drove away. I didn’t want him to see me cry.
The next time I feel restless and can’t figure out why I’m not doing what ‘I’ think I should be doing, I’m not going to analyze it and wonder what the heck is wrong with me. I know I’ll end up exactly where I’m supposed to be.