Random Acts of Kindness

Ginger stood in line at the grocery store waiting for Jeremy Kendall to complete his purchase. Suddenly, Jeremy said to the cashier, “Dang it. Forgot toothpaste. Be right back.” He slipped past Ginger and the other customers and ran off for a tube of toothpaste. Ginger told the cashier, “Just put all his stuff on my tab.” The cashier smiled and added Jeremy’s gallon of milk, box of mac and cheese, and candy bar to Ginger’s bill, plus the price of a tube of Crest. Ginger helped the cashier bag everything up and went on her way. When Jeremy returned, the cashier explained what had happened and finished her narrative with, “Such a nice young lady. We should all be so kind.” Everyone in line nodded in agreement.

Jeremy was still reflecting on Ginger’s actions as he opened his car door. Then, out of the blue, he started thinking about his friend Marcus, who had been struggling with depression and a few legal and financial problems that were slowly but surely getting resolved, but not without some ongoing challenges. They hadn’t communicated in a while, but the last time they had spoken on the phone, Jeremy sensed an undercurrent of desperation in Marcus’s voice. He pulled out his cell phone and texted Marcus the following message: “Hey, what’s up? How has civilian life been treating you? My leave starts in a few weeks, and if it’s cool with you, I’d like to come out and visit like you said I should. I’ll give you the details by next Monday, OK? Booze, beach, and babes, right? Should be awesome! Stay safe, man. Look forward to hearing from you soon.”

Marcus heard his phone buzz, read Jeremy’s message, and shouted, “No way!”

“What’s up, little brother?” his sister Nicole shouted back from the kitchen.

“You remember Jeremy Kendall?” Marcus asked.

“You mean that Army buddy of yours you partied with in Biloxi?” Nicole asked.

“Yep,” Marcus said. “He wants to come out and visit in a few weeks. You good with that?”

“I’m plenty good with that,” Nicole said. “Anything to get you up and out of the house. Gonna take him fishing?”

“Oh yeah,” Marcus said. “He’s from Arizona. He don’t know the first thing about fishing. Can’t wait to get him out on the water.”

Nicole whispered “Thank goodness for that” as she opened the kitchen door and stepped onto the back porch. Mamma was sitting in her wheelchair and gazing intently at a lone seagull patrolling the beach. A broken iced tea glass sat on the ground next to the wheelchair. Nicole walked over, wiped Mamma’s chin and dress with a soft towel, and stroked her wiry salt-and-pepper hair. Mamma looked up at Nicole, jerked back slightly, pointed at her, and said, “Did you know you look just like my daughter Nicole? Nicole’s my special one. Why, you two would get along just like sisters.”

“Thank you, Mamma,” Nicole said deferentially. She thought about the Arizona boy coming out to visit and figured he knew Marcus needed some help, some company, anything at all to make life a little more normal, safe, and functional for everyone, which was all that really mattered, and she decided right then that it would be better to keep Mamma at home instead of sending her to assisted living, as both she and Marcus had been considering for several months. No, Mamma would stay with them, and they would love and respect her for who she was now, not just for who she used to be. Nicole would tell Marcus in a few days, but at that moment, all she wanted to do was focus on the pleasure of arranging a memorable visit. Mamma and Marcus would probably like it better that way anyway.