Thank you, Winco shopper!

By Nancy Lofgren Mayer

THS l publications adviser


When I stopped at Winco at 6:30 a.m. on my way to work at Tigard High School, I kept saying to myself, “Don’t be embarrassed. Don’t be embarassed. Don’t be embarrassed.”

I carried in my cart a gigantic plastic bottle full of pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters, and I knew that when I got to the register, I would have too much attention on the fact that I didn’t have my debit card with me.

I had stopped off to buy food for students. I don’t have to keep bread in the freezer, peanut butter, jelly and a few snacks in my room. It’s not required or reimbursed, but my students know that if they forget their lunch,  their “school mom” has  peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches they can make. After school when teen-agers work on projects, I make sure they have a snack. Today, I promised my language-arts students I would buy light popcorn for them to eat as we huddled together in the front of the room and read the third chapter in “Of Mice and Men,” when Lennie crushes the hand of Curley.

When I got to the check stand, however, the woman behind me began to breathe heavily, her face turning red.

“Don’t tell me you plan to count out pennies!” she said.

“Yes, I’m afraid that is so,” I said, embarrassed.

She grabbed her items off the conveyer belt, threw them into her cart, and wheeled her cart to another check stand.

“If she’s that angry by 6:30 a.m., imagine what her day will be like,” I asked a fellow shopper who was bagging up his groceries nearby.”

“She probably doesn’t have time for this,” he said, eying my pennies contemptuously.

Other shoppers behind me with food still in their carts followed suit, finding another open checker, but one man with only one item stayed in line.

“Can you help him first?” I asked.

Then he paid for his purchase with a debit card. When he left, I noticed he forgot the extra $20 he got in change on top of my coins.

“That man just forgot his change,” I told the checker, who ran after him.

“Sir, sir! Your change!” The checker yelled, following the man all the way outside into the darkness. When he came back, the checker was smiling.

“The man left that 20 so you would not have to count out your change,” he said.

I did not know this man. I hardly looked at his face. I don’t know if he was a Republican or a Democrat. I don’t know if he supports gay rights or wants a constitutional ban on abortion. I don’t know if he is a Christian, a Jew, Muslim or atheist. I do know that humanity runs through the human soul like the “universal soul” I will explain to my students today when we discuss John Steinbeck’s writing.

I could not thank that man for buying food for my school kids, but if he is reading this, I hope he knows how much he made my day – and gave me a great lesson to teach my students.