I sat in the Safeway parking lot the other day, finishing up my shopping list before diving into the distraction of the grocery store. As I was making sure I had those last-minute items listed, I glanced through my windshield and noticed an older lady struggling to load groceries into her car while keeping her cart from wandering off.

She was struggling to manage all the elements. She fought to steady her cart. She grappled with popping the trunk open. And she tried to keep the hood of her coat from blowing off her head.

And she was losing.

I noticed the sun-damaged paint peeling off her old Toyota Camry and watched as she tried to cinch her coat tighter, fighting the blustery wind. As she dug through her purse for the key, her cart slowly began to creep backward on her, headed toward a shiny new Ford F150 parked somewhat askew next to her. A shadow of confusion and frustration crossed her face. She didn't know if she should cinch the coat tighter, grab the escaping cart, or continue digging for the key.

David Clarke via unsplash
David Clarke via unsplash

I watched for a moment, holding my breath, a spring coiled for action. As I prepared to jump out of my car, a young man dressed in shorts and a hoodie suddenly appeared on the scene, stopping the cart just short of bumping into the adjacent truck.

All the Emotions Ran Through My Head

'Is he going to hurt or harass her?'

Then, 'He must be cold! It’s 40 degrees and he’s wearing shorts!'

Finally, 'What reflexes!

He saved the truck AND the lady’s embarrassment!'

What’s Happening?

The lady looked a little confused, and then all at once she seemed to sigh with gratitude. Without missing a beat, the young man smiled, and helped load her groceries into her car. Then he gestured for her to step back a little so he could close her trunk.

I couldn’t hear their conversation, but the confident and kind body language of the young man told half the story. The bright smile and gratitude of the older woman told the rest.

Three Minutes That Changed Someone’s Day

The young man moved the cart out of the way, securing it so it wouldn’t roll away again. Then he opened the car door for the now beaming elderly lady. I saw her fish through her purse again. When she tried to offer the boy cash, he waved it away and helped her into her car.

The entire exchange took about three minutes, but as I watched the boy return the lady’s cart to the nearby cart corral, I reflected on what I'd just witnessed. The young man walked into the Safeway as though nothing important had just happened, leaving me to reflect on this simple, yet profound act of kindness.

I don’t know who you are, Young Man Dressed in Shorts in 40 Degree Weather, but I see you. It's true, not all heroes wear capes. Some wear shorts when it's freezing outside. But I guarantee, you're a hero to one sweet lady.

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