A few of weeks ago I had an unusual craving for fried chicken. It’s unusual given that I eat a primarily plant-based diet and cannot recall the last time I had fried chicken. Nonetheless, this craving was intense and demanding. When I went to pick up a few items from the local grocery store, I found myself in the deli department ordering two pieces of fried chicken legs. I devoured those as soon as I returned to my car and followed it with a big swig of lemonade I had also just bought. All of it was absolutely delicious. My craving and belly were satisfied.
The following week I found myself at the same grocery store. This time, I stuck to my grocery list and stocked up on multiple items. As I was pushing the cart out to my car, I reflected on how much food I had just bought. It would surely last awhile, and I wondered if I bought too much. Letting food go bad was a cardinal sin in my parents’ house, and I carry the same sentiment with me as an adult.
While loading the groceries into my car, lost in my thoughts, I heard a woman’s voice approaching me.
I kept loading, thinking maybe the woman wasn’t speaking to me.
“Excuse me. I don’t want any money. Can I just ask you one question?”
The woman was right beside my car. She was polite, nicely dressed, and looked to be in her 50s or so. She also had multiple teeth missing.
“Excuse me. I’m sorry to bother. I don’t want any money. I just want to ask a question.” she stated.
“Okay,” I replied flatly and kept loading.
Living in LA, I’ve become accustomed to being approached by strangers for money or what not fairly frequently. My response depends on the situation. I prefer buying food for people based on their preference rather than giving money.
“I’m really hungry. Would you mind buying me some fried chicken? The 12 piece. I don’t know when our next meal will be.”
No one was with the woman, but it was clear her intent was to obtain food for herself and someone else.
The timing of her request struck me, as I was just reflecting on the abundance of food available for my family right before she approached. Plus, I remembered my desire for that fried chicken the week before and how incredibly delicious it tasted. Furthermore, I keep in mind a time when I chose not to give someone money while I was distracted and speaking to someone else on my phone. I had changed my mind after I finished my phone call and felt bad when that person had already left. With all of these thoughts in mind, I responded to this woman.
“Sure, I’ll buy you some chicken.”
She was ecstatic and thankful. Her response surprised me. She seemed authentically appreciative. We walked into the store together and approached the same place where I had bought my fried chicken the previous week. I stood back as she ordered. She held her hands together in front of her heart and looked absolutely joyful ordering her 12 piece meal. Her joy in receiving compelled me to ask her a question.
“Would you like anything else?“
Her eyes widened like a kid in a candy store.
“Are you serious? Macaroni and cheese!?” she asked excitedly.
I smiled and nodded my head in response, adding “Anything else?”
She was beside herself with the followup question. She rhetorically asked if there were any greens. Not seeing any near us, she went to grab a dessert from the bakery section. While she was gone, I asked the woman behind the counter if they had any green beans. Unfortunately they did not.
When the woman returned, she was as excited as a kid at Christmas. She had a smile wide across her face. She came up to me and gave me a hug and a kiss on my cheek. She told me how thankful she was and how she would be thinking of me with every bite. I was somewhat taken aback, as I was not expecting this type of response. I also found myself smiling and happy to be able to share with this woman.
As we checked out, the woman saw on the cash register the price for the food and let out a small gasp as she softly said the amount out loud. The price seemed reasonable to me for the amount of food bought. Her reaction again was surprising to me and led me to reflect more on food scarcity in this country. Her response was a reminder for me to be grateful for the gift of access to quality food.
During this time, I also remembered how thirsty I was while eating my fried chicken the previous week. I encouraged her to grab a drink. She returned with only one stating, “We can share.” I encouraged her to grab some utensils and napkins from the salad bar. As she went to get the items, she smiled stating that they likely wouldn’t need napkins as they’d lick each of their fingers clean. She demonstrated the action on her way to the salad bar, which elicited a laugh from me, as I had done the same thing the week before in my car after finishing my fried chicken.
As we left the store together, she kept thanking me and telling me what this gesture meant to her. My heart was full seeing her joy and receiving her gratitude. I found myself thanking her for this experience. It felt like Thanksgiving, and even though I wouldn’t partake in this feast, I still felt a part of it.
I spent a fraction of the money I spent on groceries for my family on this meal for this woman and whomever her companion might be. A small act on my part meant a great deal for this woman. Nonetheless, I received much in return. This woman brought joy to my day, which had started somewhat down in the dumps. She provided another perspective on life. She made me happy to give and thankful to receive this blessing of connection and sharing. Reflecting on the experience now still makes my heart swell in my chest. The interaction demonstrated the transformational power of gratitude. Furthermore, this woman and experience also helped me feel redeemed for that time I missed an opportunity to help someone else in need. I had not expected any of these emotions or results when agreeing to buy her the chicken, and I’m incredibly thankful for what she provided me.
In this holiday season, let us be mindful of the blessings we have, give, and receive.
Thoughts and questions to consider:
Reflect on a time when you unexpectedly received more than what you thought you gave or gifted?
Where can you give freely without expectation of anything in return?
What have you craved lately? How can you share it or something similar with others?
List 3-5 things you are grateful for and the reason why. Consider doing this activity daily for at least a week.
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