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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

You can't save everybody.

That's what my husband said to me yesterday.

You see, I was at a local drugstore picking up a few items when a man in line ahead of me was checking out. He was an elderly gentlemen, I'd say about 70+ years old. The clerk told him his debit card was declined. So, the man fumbled through his wallet and popped a new card into the machine. That too was declined. I watched him do this two more times and I watched the woman in front of me grow very agitated. She got upset and I got sad. Soon the man was pushing the bag off to the side and said something to the clerk.

At this point, the man shuffled out of the store and the woman in front me rushed to check out. By the time she was completed and leaving, the old man returned. He had a new payment method. Well, he swiped the card and again the clerk told him it was denied. The man's shoulders slumped and he sighed and said "nevermind". I was heart broken.

All the while he was checking out, I tried to read the screen to see if he was purchasing medication or something, but I couldn't tell. I know that's probably not polite, but I wanted to know. After all, if he needed the meds, someone should have helped, or so I thought.

I did see that his purchase was about $39 and some odd change. I only had my debit card on me and wasn't sure if I could justify the expense for a stranger to my husband had he asked. Part of me wanted to just pay for the man and part of me held back. Of course, I didn't want to offend him and bruise his ego. I know that can be humbling for many, especially a man of this gentleman's generation. Then again, I also didn't know if perhaps he was trying to purchase cigarettes or something unnecessary. So, all the while he was being declined, my conscious and my heart were in a battle to do the right thing. I don't think I did. I let the man walk away and I feel terrible. I feel utterly helpless and hope the man got what he needed later in the day perhaps with the help of a friend of family member.

It was so heart wrenching to see this man go through this and know that it could be anyone's father or grandfather. I know the expenses of medications and lack or low insurance some of these folks have to deal with. It's tragic at best.

I was still upset by the situation when I returned home and told my husband about it. He said he probably would have wanted to pay too and also agreed with my thinking. Of course, he said as terrible as it is that he couldn't pay for such a small purchase You can't save everybody. And, he's right. I can't.

Those who know me do know that this is one of my flaws though. I like to believe that I'm a superhero. I want to fix things and I want to help others in ways that I can't. I love the concept of giving and paying things forward. Still, I struggle with how to make it happen without putting financial strain on my own family.


I'm rambling. I just needed to get that out.

I hope I have another chance this week to help someone out like I should have helped here. I really do.


Azzy said...

I would have wanted to do the same thing... We can't save everybody, but just think - if everyone did do something nice and continued to pay it forward, it would be a wonderful world!

The Mrs. said...

I would have felt a pull too. What your husband said is right but what you can do is find a way to reach out that does work for you and your family.