The Rest of the Story
The traffic was bumper-to -bumper as I headed to the local Target store a couple days post-tornado. I needed to pick up some basic items but also needed underwear. Oh... the things we take for granted until we have none! It was the first time since the disaster that I felt just a bit "normal" as I drove to the store. For a few minutes, in my mind, I put the immediate concerns aside and delighted in the normalcy of the drive.
It didn't take me long in the store. I was tired and hungry and looked for the shortest aisle to check out. It was there that I saw an African American woman at the cash register. She had such a kind and beautiful face and her earrings caught my eye as they were huge silver crosses. As I loaded my things on the conveyer belt, she lightheartedly said... "How are you today?" I could have simply said fine but instead, I said that I could be better, and told her that we had lost our home in the tornado. With that she said that God had brought me to her aisle to check out.
I know she meant well but at that moment, I was hardly in the mood to hear the "God-thing". I just wanted to get "home" and curl up in my cozy quilt and have some dinner. So, I gently broke the news to her that I am an atheist. I really did not want anyone trying to convert me in the midst of dealing with our loss. She went on to tell me that she is an ordained minister and that she wished I did believe, but told me that God loves me anyway. She said that she knows I have a good heart. OK... so I have to admit, that response threw me. I fully expected a negative response from her or more proselytizing. At this point, I noticed that other people standing in adjacent aisles seemed to be listening in on the conversation.
She then told me that she had been in Katrina in New Orleans and lost everything including her brother and could empathize with my loss. Suddenly the gal behind me interrupted and asked to buy a gift card. She bought the gift card and handed it to me and said she wanted me to have it and told me how sorry she was for the loss of my home. I was dumbfounded! She was a complete stranger to me! I said that I simply could not accept it as there were others in a far worse situation than I, but she insisted and gave me a big hug.
With that, the cashier came out and gave me a big hug as well and held my hands as she talked to me telling me she was thankful I lived through the tornado and that the experience would make me stronger and that I would get through it just as she had done in the aftermath of Katrina. Tears came to my eyes as I knew she understood how overwhelming it is when disaster strikes.
I thought of that quote by Maya Angelou... "I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."
The random acts of kindness shown to me by Althea, the sales clerk, and Stephanie, the gal who bought the gift card, made me feel cared for at a time when I needed it the most. I cannot thank them enough for their kindness on a day when I was feeling down and tired and just wanting to feel like my ordinary self again, bumbling through life.
I did write about their kindness on facebook and there were many complimentary comments on what they did that day; however, I did not include the part about my lack of belief and the discussion pertaining to that as I have seen much hatred and negativity in this community towards those of us who do not believe. To my mind... religion is a very personal thing and we all must be tolerant of others' beliefs, and although Althea is a devout believer, she respected my right to not believe and did not force her religion on me, but rather she could empathize with my plight in my recovery from the tornado.
My friend Troy wrote a beautiful entry in his blog about the Nature of God or the God of Nature:
A sincere thank you to you both for how you made me feel that day! I will never forget you and will certainly pass it forward!
A special thank you to my daughter Missy for getting these photos with her cell phone following the tornado showing the damage to our home.
Keywords: Maya Angelou quote, Rowlett, Texas, Target, atheist, caring, random acts of kindness, religion, tornado
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