At the corner market

Late last night, on my way home from the lab, I decided to pick up a few groceries at my favorite corner market, and I got a little carried away. By the time I arrived at the checkout counter, I had a basket full of things to buy.

At the checkout counter I saw a disheveled and very lost looking man, clearly homeless. Sitting on the counter before him was a packaged snack and a can of beer. He just stood there stoically, as though waiting patiently for his turn to be served.

The proprietor, ignoring the homeless man entirely, asked me if I was ready to be served. I thought to myself that this homeless guy’s life is clearly hard enough, so maybe I could help a little.

“He has a lot fewer items than I do,” I told the proprietor. “I can go after him.”

Just then a young man, maybe twenty years old, stepped in front of me and put two items down on the counter for purchase.

Now that seemed just plain rude. “OK,” I siged, trying to stay civil, “I guess I will go after everybody else.”

The young man looked at me sheepishly, then gestured toward the homeless man. “I’m paying for him.”

And so he was. I felt very embarrassed, but I guess I learned one good lesson from this awkward episode:

When you find yourself feeling all puffed up and proud after being kind to a stranger, just remember that there are people in this world who are kinder than you are. I think that’s a good thing.