January 8, 2010

The Needy

Earlier this week, I went to Target with the specific purpose of digging through the children's clearance racks. You can imagine my irritation when I arrived on the scene only to find the entire contents of the 50 and 75% off racks inside another woman's shopping cart.

To make matters worse, the woman was dripping in diamonds. "This is so unfair!" I cried to myself. "She is taking clearance merchandise away from the needy!" Clearly I count myself among the deserving.

"You've got to be kidding me," I mumbled as I followed the woman to the only open checkout line.

The woman pushed my buttons further when she asked the cashier to remove each article of clothing from its hanger and neatly fold it before putting it in a plastic shopping bag.

I did a quick survey of the contents of her shopping cart and counted over 100 items. "This is going to take FOREVER!" I whined to myself.

After a few minutes, I felt compelled to hurry the process along and began helping the woman and the cashier fold shirts, pants, and jackets.

"Your kids sure are lucky," I observed.

The woman stopped folding and gave me a strange look.

"My kids are grown," she told me. "Whenever I find children's clothing on sale, I buy it and send it to orphanges in Africa."

I felt very, very small.

The total sale came to $1,237.65.

Before leaving the store, the woman paused long enough to crumple up her receipt and toss it into the trash can.

I left the store feeling more needy than when I entered. What I am in need of, I realized, isn't a half-price Christmas dress, but rather humility and compassion.

98 comments

Becca said...

I think this entry is beautiful, Jana. I love that there are people like that. And I pray, on a daily basis, that when my children are grown and I am dripping with diamonds, I will do the same.

Tessica said...

Wow, what a grounding story, it is nice to hear there are people like that and people like you who realize the importance of people like that!

Lindy said...

While you still thought the woman had bought all those clothes for her own kids, you stopped and helped fold them. Although monetarily you can't compare - I think that also showed some compassion on your part! :)

I'd like to think that given the opportunity (and money) I'd do the same.

Jenny said...

Thank you for sharing this precious entry. I linked up with you on my blog today.

Jen@Scrapingirl said...

Well, that knocks us all down a notch. WOW! What an amazing story. God bless that lady.

Connie said...

It's so easy to judge. We're all guilty of that. Thanks for the thought provoking post.

Catrina said...

Wow, that is beautiful!

Kelli said...

Wow. That is awesome. And you are human. Can't blame yourself for feeling like you did.
I wish I had the extra bucks to do something like that, too.

Kelli said...

Wow. That is awesome. And you are human. Can't blame yourself for feeling like you did.
I wish I had the extra bucks to do things like that, however I must say I'd be more apt to help out the homeless here.

erin said...

I bet she just told you that to make you feel like crap and go home and write a post about her. ;)

Elise said...

thank you so much for sharing the story. It is so nice to hear there are people like that in world who truly are making it a better place- little angels that do not often get recognized. I know I'm not in a position to do that, but hopefully I can find ways to contribute to the world that makes an impact too.

vanilla said...

This is a great story. Definitely worth a link!

Brian James said...

such a great post. Reminds us all to step back when we lose patience.

Also, I hope you picked up the receipt...for tax purposes :)

Steph @ Diapers and Divinity said...

That's it. I'm selling all my diamonds and buying coats for kids in Africa. Wait, I don't have ANY diamonds. Darn it.

It IS a great reminder, though...

That Kind of Girl said...

What a fantastic story. This made me tear up a little bit.

Your blog is wonderful. I look forward to every entry. Especially ones like this that remind me to keep trying to be a better person.

WILLIAM said...

Excellent post.

Jill said...

Always best to realize that none of us know the WHOLE story when we see something. It's hard to judge. We just gotta take a step back and say "We don't know all the facts."

Lainie said...

Love this. Thanks for a great start to my day.

togetherforgood said...

Oi.

Homemaker Man said...

Oh snap. Maybe she just tells people that so that they leave her alone?

Jamie said...

What a lovely post. It is moments like those that we are forced to count our blessings.

Emily Hill said...

Guess I needed to read that post as well since I was feeling your same irritation and frustration as I started reading...and then felt I'd learned a valuable lesson when I finished. Thank you for the lesson in humility!

Catrina said...

I had to link up to this post on my blog (sorry) but I had to share it with others!

Julie said...

Oops, I totally would have had your reaction, too. Great post.

Robin said...

This happens to me all the time. I am so often quick to judge someone, but I am usually proven wrong.
Beautiful post.

The Payne Family said...

I think we all need things like this to happen to us to remind us to be patient with others. We never know why someone is doing what they are, or what it's for. I have been guilty many many times of jumping to negative conclusions and then feeling bad about it later.

MamaOtwins+1 said...

Wow - there really are angels among us!

kristen said...

Thank you for the immediate change of attitude I desperately needed.

Symply Me said...

I too, couldn't help but link to your post. You're amazing! Thanks for sharing, and for the valuable lesson.

Emz said...

awesome.

I love it when "this aren't always what they seem".

Renate Hunter said...

Great post. Our family does donation of time and equipment to harvest corn to sell to get money for projects in Africa. This is the third year our farming community in Iowa has done this. Last year a foreign exchange student from Ethopia attended our harvest festive and decided to do something for his country. He wrote grants and got thousands of dollars to put in an irrigation system and water in his home area. He was barely 20 years old and plans to help another area of his country this year. There are angels everywhere. But I also teach a unit on poverty and the homeless--there are little things we can do in our own community--donate to a food closet--$10 goes a long way. Thanks Jana for sharing this story.

RMMama said...

Wow. What a lesson! And what an awesome woman for doing such a wonderful thing!

Working Mommy said...

Oh wow!! I would have felt like the littlest speck of dust. A great lesson came out of your experience though...so that is good at least! Not to mention you didn't say anything mean...so you only felt bad to yourself.

~WM

nikki said...

I'm going to sound like such a bitch. Africa doesn't need clothes. They need money and medicine. Sending clothes to Africa only leads to putting African cotton farmers and textilers out of business, which is really even worse for Africa.

That said, the intetions are good and her heart is pure and she is a good soul and a good reminder to all of us to be better people.

June said...

Aren't you glad you suppressed the urge to make an obnoxious comment before you found out what she was doing?

Karen said...

I have a love/hate relationship with humility. Thankfully, I still get the lessons whether I want them or not. Thanks for sharing your beautiful story.

Krista said...

Wow, there's a reality check that we can all take from. Thanks for this great post.

Vindiciti said...

Wow. Thank you for sharing. It's important to remember that you never know someone's motives. Thank you for the reality check!

Margaret said...

What a great entry and I would have felt so very small too when I was leaving the store.

amanda said...

This was a great post. I included it in our Week In Review on the UpSpring Baby blog today:

http://themeanestmom.blogspot.com/2010/01/needy_08.html

stewbert said...

Wow. What a wonderful human being. I, too, hope that when my children are grown and we have more money, that I can do the same.

Skubaliscious said...

Thanks for sharing!

Skooks said...

Thank you for posting this. What a great story. Helps keep our shopping in real perspective.

Christine said...

Thanks for sharing! Nice reminder.

Amy said...

The only thing that would have made that story better is if she was sending the clothes to needy kids in America...

But wonderful story all the same.

Confessions of a Mother, Lawyer & Crazy Woman said...

What a wonderful story! Thank you so much for sharing, Jana. This really made my day and brought a smile to my face.

Lauren Borquez said...

Beautiful lesson and reminder we all need a good dose of from time to time!

I'm just a girl. said...

Someday I dream of having the time, money and energy to be this person.

However if you see me with loads of clothes in my cart please feel free to ask if you can shop through them. There are many stores and lots of clothes and while its great to help out, it also takes away from those in the local community that can be struggling too.

Maybe your cubic ziconia fooled her and made her think you were the enemy and needed to beat you to the stash???

The Urban Cowboy said...

Awesome post. Just found ya, but I will be coming back often.

Anna said...

Long-time 'lurker' here, thank you for this post. How wonderful you encountered that woman and are able to share this story with us; it is both humbling and inspiring. Thank you again.

Good Egg Hunting said...

Wow. I mean, don't feel bad -- we all would have done that and how could you possibly have known? But thanks for the reminder to take a step back and not jump to conclusions...a good reminder for all of us. Thanks for sharing.

Jeanne said...

Wow. That's all I've got. Wow.

(Visiting by way of TKOG, who's the kind of girl who sends people over to read really excellent posts!)

metaphase said...

Having a son adopted from Vietnam, I have done this exact thing, excetp at Sears. And Nikki, I can almost promise no one will lose thier job over this woman's donation b/c they weren't going to buy kids clothes from somewhere else if this woman didn't donate them. My son weighed 15 lbs. and was wearing some size 3 overalls when we got him.

Kirsha said...

With the holiday season behind us it is easy to move on and forget the best part about it....and that is giving to those in need! So nice to hear that it is still happening. I too wish and hope for the day that I have enough money to do such kind deeds for others. What an eye opening experience and thought provoking post!

Chey said...

Thanks for the great story. That would totally be something that would happen to me. Only I would be the one grumbling just like you did. Thanks for humbeling (is that a word) us all.

Malea said...

Yeh, just cause one is rich doesn't make them a "drip" *nerdy snort laugh*. Great story.

Too Many Hats said...

What a wonderful woman. I'm sure I would have reacted the same as you, but now I can look at things in a different light - thanks.

Anonymous said...

If we all waited until we were "dripping" in diamonds, then donations would dry up. (Pun intended) Most of us have more than we realize. People in need rely on those of us who are willing to share what little we think we have.

Chasey and Cash said...

I'm glad there are still good people out there! It's not every day that you run into that...I would have felt like crawling into my hole though!

sarahandmatt said...

Oh, what would it be like to have $1237.56 to spend on clothes for the needy? I guess that's not the point, right?

Anonymous said...

My goodness, everyone is sooooo nice. Don't feel bad, Jana. She was probably reselling them on EBAY. That's how she makes money to buy her diamonds! :-)

Natalie said...

Well, 3 things:
First of all, I would feel about this() big if it were me.
Second, I hope she really is sending the clothing to orphanages somewhere. There is too much need of this kind everywhere.
Third, am I the only one coldhearted enough to wonder why she didn't keep the receipt for the tax writeoff? Maybe it wouldn't have made a difference to her, but it would to me!

joey bagadonuts said...

This is very warming for my soul, but I've got to tell you ...the rude, hoggish, demanding people who seem to surround me in store settings are definitely not doing anything charitable. I just know these things.

Scrapity Anne said...

Ok, at 1:29 am I sit here and cry over that post...1) because I would have reacted the same way and been SO frustrated by this obviously selfish woman hoggin all the good deals. And 2) because I wish I could be the person who buys these deals to help others, rather than being the person in genuine need of the deals. Someday....someday I will be that lady to the extent that I can. And in the meantime, I will use your beautiful post to help me remember to give everyone the benefit of compassion instead of judgement.
I am VERY new to the blogging world (www.scrapityanne@blogspot.com) and am blown away by the life lessons I get right along with craft tips. Thanks SO much.

Missy said...

Thank you for showing your transparency and posting this; I'm sure the experience was very humbling.

It just goes to show that we do not always know what is under the exterior and things are not always as they appear.

Renny said...

I like it. Thanks for making me cry (in a good way.)

Queen of Crafts, Current Events, and Such. said...

Dear Jana ...I am writing an articla on "Mommy Bloggers" Monday morn...You are on my good mommy blogger list...i find you witty and fun...I love your sarcastic undertone.....lovely

purnells making memories said...

Seriously!!! A couple of you ladies on here and the demeaning comments that you have made about her not sending the clothes to Africa is just pathtic!!! Really!!! Who are you to say that she sent the cloths to Africa or NOT!!! Most people out there would not stop and say, "My kids are grown and I'm sending these clothes to Africa for needy." children." There are kids in Africa that need clothes just as they need food and medicane. Every little bit helps. Great post, I really enjoyed reading it! :)

jennie w. said...

Thanks for the Family Home Evening lesson!

feefifoto said...

Is this a true story? It's absolutely lovely. What a gracious woman, and how lucky you were to see her in action.

Alyssa said...

Life lessons come to us in so many ways it is truly amazing...and you should be thankful that your eyes were open to see this one~ as well as your heart. Thank you for sharing this story!

Kiki said...

what an amazing story. i walked up to a line at walmart and a lady checking out couldn't find her wallet. she was an elderly woman and got upset and confused. the woman in front of me paid her 40 something bill and the elderly woman started crying. then the other woman started crying and i started crying. the cashier just looked at us all like we were nuts. it was a wonderful experience. the woman asked that the older woman just "pay it forward" in return. next time i encounter a situation like that, i will pay it forward. thanks for sharing your story.

AlsoMean said...

Another POV:
Please, if you are moved by this story I want to encourage you to make a different choice with your money than this generous woman.

She will spend hundreds more $ to ship the clothes to the orphans in Africa. And think of all the fuel that will be burned to get them from Penn. to any place in Africa!
The $1200 spent on the clothes+$500 or more for transportation + impact to the environment could have been instantly invested in a sustainable effort like those run by Heifer International (www.heifer.org) or Save the Children (www.savethechildren.org). Organization, training, seeds, equipment, livestock: all of these things lead to fundamental changes for families and communities. Based on my experience, the clothes from Target will be worn out soon enough.

GregoryJ said...

How could you have known?
Many rich people are extremely selfish and miserly and take advantage of everyone and everything.
Let's hope that lady was telling the truth. If so God bless her.
And you, you did nothing wrong. But you, and the rest of us here, learned a lesson.

Mommy Dearest said...

Wow! What an awesome story! To be honest, I would have reacted the same as you...thinking, "She can afford to pay full price"! Thanks for sharing your story.

Pam, mom, honey, said...

i needed that story. our pastor told this story of how a dad was riding a bus with 2 small children and the kids were running wild and the dad just seemed to ignore it. finally one of the other passangers comfronted the man and was very rude. the man apologized and said his wife had just died and they were traveling across the country to be with family. i think we all so often look at what is going on in the moment without knowing the background of people. I am so guilty of it.

Miss Journey said...

Aw what a touching story. What a great reminder of the glimpses of hope among all the crazniess.

adhocmom said...

You should feel very big - because the thing is, I would most certainly have run her over with my cart (accidentally on purpose of course!)
Paula,
www.adhocmom.com

little rambler said...

Faith in the goodness of the human spirit = restored. Thanks for sharing! I would have been feeling the exact same way you were, I am sure! Frankly, after reading a horrible article in the NYT the other day about how much of that clearance clothing gets destroyed (shredded, then burned) rather than given to people who need it by GIANT, WEALTHY retailers, I am glad this woman has the means and motivation to do something to help.

Michelle said...

Wow, thanks for sharing! A great reminder that it is all about perspective and that you really don't know what others intentions are just by looking. Great reminder to me!

Debbie said...

Very little time in my day - but when I read your blog it is time well spent - usually laughing! Thank you for your ability to express the ordinary about life in a wonderful and humorous way - and for posts like this that combine laughter with a sense of gratitude. The best emotions for the day!

Lisa said...

Well this really brings it home doesn't it? Thank you for sharing.... I would have felt exactly the same way you were feeling, irritated and annoyed. We are all human. You were lucky enough to witness another human performing a completely selfless and generous act and that is amazing!

Anonymous said...

Why do kids in Africa need WINTER clothes? Pants, velvet Christmas dresses, winter coats etc. Just thought.

Tobler Bunch said...

Thanks for sharing that with all of us. It is a sweet reminder of how humble we need to be every day and truly appreciate life more, as well as non-judgemental. I know I am guilty as well of having passed judgement and then tasted humilty after. Good lessons learned. I just love your heart!

Anonymous said...

yeah, whatever. I bet she's planning to make a bundle selling it all on ebay. :))

A Musing Mom (Taylorclan6) said...

I guess Christmas can be any time of the year.

Nicole said...

WOW. just wow.

Brian and Tonya said...

I normally don't comment but I had to for this post. Wow. Thank you for sharing. I too am very needy in the humility department. I could also use some help in the patience, kindness, forgivness, selflessness, departments.

Wander said...

Ohh man! God bless her....and God bless you for sharing!

I have been guilty of thinking "woe is me" myself...too many times to mention!

What a great lesson!

Mom N said...

actually THIS is the one I meant was one of the best stories on your blog. (from that new RS pres.)

Anonymous said...

Wow, everyone has a story. You sure know how to make 'em up.
While touching, I hardly doubt, cause I can't help but think, dripping in diamonds at Target??? Maybe Saks, or Nordstrom...

Anonymous said...

I can't believe what I am reading. For one, I can't believe that 90% of you are amazed that this lady is so generous to do this. This is a sad statement about our feelings toward the less fortunate.

Secondly, who are you to criticize someone who is just trying to do a good thing. She probably chose Africa because she knows about the terrible poverty there, that most Americans cannot even imagine because they have not witnessed it. And YES, Africa can be cold. They need warm clothes too.

I have two daughters adopted from China and I have done the same thing many times. Never spent $1,200 at one time, but have still piled up carts with tons of clothes. I always tell the cashier what I am doing with them, just because I know they are always wondering. BUT, I have never imagined that SOMEONE might be judging me with hatefulness in their heart. This makes me so sad.

And in closing, I and many of the others I know who do this kind of thing know how to get the items to their destination as cheaply as possible. Most of the time we locate someone through the grapevine that will be visiting somewhere the items could be of use. There are no shortages of those places.

Jo's Outlet said...

Dear most recent Anonymous,

I think that was the point of this post: The author judged the woman only at first because she seemed to be hoarding all the clothes on sale. Then, the author found out the lady was actually buying them for other children in need. So...she no longer criticized her but understood her actions were charitable. It doesn't matter what else happens from that point, how much the freight cost, how much the environment is affected by the transportation which was mentioned by another commenter (which in all honesty is probably nill. We have to transport goods, people. That's how the economy works.)
I don't understand why your comment was so negative. At least you got to toot your own horn about all the good you do as well. Too bad you're too much of a coward to put your real name or a link or something.

Anonymous said...

@ Jo's Outlent,

I am the most recent anon poster, and I agree with your comment 100%. In fact, that was what I was trying to say in my post. I never intended to criticize the author (even tho it sounds like I am), I was just very annoyed at a few of the comments to the author's post...I was speaking to them, not the author. I think I was in a really bad mood because of the Haiti earthquake.

Janeal said...

What a wonderful story. I have been enjoying your blog since I found it about 30 minutes ago. I have been laughing all the way through but this post really hit me and I was crying. What a wonderful woman she was to do that. And what a beautiful woman you are to share it with us. I truly hope that I can do things like this someday. Thank you for your inspiration on all your posts. Keep up the great work!

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