As the cashier rang up my total, a fellow in boots, jeans, and a sweatshirt walked up behind me at the checkout carrying a single item – a vase of red roses and ferny greens. I couldn't help noticing the $25 price tag and wondering about his generous impulse. Did he have a new relationship to nourish? An old one to shore up after a falling out? Were pricey cut flowers likely to do the trick?
I don't make a habit of pondering about the lives of strangers, but the image of this burly workingman and the delicate vase worth more than my groceries for the next few days triggered a smile and a moment of private musing as I reached in my pocket for the $20 bill and four cents I needed. The little bouquet seemed so incongruous against his plain work clothes, so extravagant given the economic stringencies affecting most of us in grocery lines of late.
I was pulled back to my pocket search as I fumbled for some change clearly not there. Reluctantly I pulled out my other $20 bill to cover the four cents. This was not missed on the gent with the flowers.
"Here you go, I've got four cents," he offered, opening his palm to the cashier.
Touched, I thanked him effusively, adding with a nod to the vase, "You're obviously a very nice guy."
"I try to be" he said with a sigh, hinting at the possibility the roses were a kind of rueful atonement. "It doesn't always work."
"Oh, it will. Over time, things always come around," I assured this perfect stranger. I thanked him once more as I left, buoyed by the gesture that left my last $20 intact for another day. He may have stretched his resources for a sweetheart, but he'd made my day for a mere four cents. He probably didn't even need those roses.