Yesterday, as M. and I walked through the Target parking lot after picking up a new prescription for her ear infection, I noticed a man talking to two women. I remember thinking it appeared strange, but also thought that perhaps they knew each other and happened to run into each other in the parking lot.
We continued on our way to our car. I loaded up the back of the minivan with some essential groceries. M. climbed up in her seat. I closed the back end, pushed the cart to the return cart corral, and decided to give M. her first dose of medicine. I opened the back end, grabbed her prescription, and followed the directions on the bottle.
As she started sipping her medicine, a man appeared and startled me in my little world. It was the same man I saw talking to the other women. My heart raced. He remained a good 10 feet away as I stood by the side door next to my daughter questioning what I should do.
"I'm sorry for the interruption, but I need some help. I'm really embarrassed to be asking, but ..." and he proceeded to ramble about his grandmother's car in need of repair and AAA and getting back home ... over 45 minutes away.
I had a difficult time following his story. I swallowed hard wondering how I could help. I remember thinking, "There was no way I am letting this man in my car."
"So, how can I help you?" I interrupted.
"I called a local cab company and it will cost me $44 to make it home." I let out a huge sigh of relief. "I only need $7.50. Again I'm really embarrassed that I have to ask for money ..."
I was so relieved that he was only requesting money. I could spare a couple dollars, if I had any. I usually don't carry any cash.
"I don't have a lot of cash," I told him as I grabbed my wallet and spotted a five and ten dollar bill. I thought the five, but snagged the ten and handed it to him quickly.
"Thank you so much. I can make it home now," he said as he shook my hand with his thick, black winter glove, pulled out his dated flip cell phone, and walked away.
I hopped in the car and drove off, eyeing the man in the rear view mirror. It appeared he was calling the taxi cab company for a ride. Or was he looking for another victim? I wondered if I should have waited to give M. her medicine.
"Mommy, what happened to that man's car?" M. asked.
"Honestly, I'm not sure. But sometimes, if you can, you have to help others in need."
I don't know if the man was being honest. I prayed as we drove away that he would use the money wisely, but those doubts crept in, wondering if I was just scammed out of $10 and briefly feared the man's motives. I mean, couldn't he use a credit card? In the moment, I wasn't about to ask. I was listening with my heart.
As I was talking with M. about what had happened, I interrupted my own thoughts, "Oh, I wish I would have told him to pay it forward."
That's all I can hope for -- that this man was being honest. Or will I see him scouring another parking lot soon ...