The Stick of Gum

It was just a small moment, but one well worthy of notice.

I was in the supermarket. It was Sunday, and the place was mostly empty. The check out girl was distant and disinterested. I was preoccupied. The bagger at the end of the counter intoned a rote, “paper or plastic?” I mumbled some response while keeping my attention on the cover of some celebrity magazine. There was no human contact anywhere.

All of a sudden, the customer in the lane next to us — a squat, perky woman dressed in a baseball jacket — came walking over and pulled out a pack of gum. “Want a stick?” she said to my check out girl. The girl smiled and nodded, then willingly took the proffered gift.

“How about you?” she said to me, thrusting the package in my direction.

“Sure,” I answered. “But don’t I have to say, ‘trick or treat’?”

The bagger smiled, then took the piece that the woman thrust in his direction.

Then she picked up her bag and walked out the door.

I don’t know who she was or why she did that. But it was a small gift of humanity in an otherwise dour and lethargic setting. She had, quite literally, put smiles on the faces of all of us.

Sometimes, in a world of hurry and anger and indifference and frustration, it is moments like these that bring out the basic goodness in folks. That woman did not right the world’s ship or change the course of humanity. But she did change the course of a few people’s day.

And that, after all, is enough.

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