His list contained the essentials like potatoes, eggs, butter, milk, onions, stock, peas, beef, and carrots. He took his time putting each item in a plastic bag, but his hands were shaking. The cashier moved fast and John was struggling to keep up. Still, she smiled pleasantly and said, “$11.25, when you’re ready.” He packed the eggs last. His wife had taught him that putting them under the rest of the food would have caused them to crack. But then a man from the back of the line cleared his throat and John was embarrassed. “Sorry.” Then, the cashier noticed his shaky hands.
John’s dad was into carpentry. In fact, his hands were huge and strong. But before John started school, he helped his dad build stairs in the housing estates in Mississippi. He looked up to his dad. But, he adored his mother too. She would kiss him every morning and make him breakfast. She made sure he was always ready to head out to school, or to visit his grandmother before his dad was even up in the morning. But shortly after he started school, he saw something that was mortifying.
John was 5 when he came home from school. He opened the door, and called for his mother. Then, he noticed her lying on the ground with her hand in her mouth. His dad was standing over her. “Mom?” he asked. She wiped her lip and stood up. “Go outside and play, I’ll be out in a minute.” He was too stunned. “Now, John!” she screamed, and her voice echoed. What had John just witnessed?
John’s mother passed away from a heart attack when John was twenty. By that point, his father had lost his business, his home, and his family. John had no choice but to crash at a friend’s house for two weeks. He desperately needed to earn some money, so he signed up to work at a ring toss at the Summer Carnival. He loved seeing everyone enjoying themselves. And it’s also where he saw Anne.
Anne had reddish-brown hair, a lean face, a beautiful singing voice, and a laugh that could win anyone over. She was also a teacher. She didn’t mind helping John create his own carpentry business. Anne also found him a place to live, and got him situated within a matter of weeks. She had practically saved his life, but John was equally impressed by Anne’s own life goals.
Anne had lots of plans, but John was never a part of them. Her biggest dream included living in France, but every time she talked herself into going, John managed to reel her in. She had ended things with him four times during their first year of dating. Perhaps his sincerity and kindness had won her over. She couldn’t get rid of him. When she tried to break up with him for the fifth time, he proposed. She was willing to say yes, but only under one insane condition.
Anne told John that she’d marry him if he managed to beat her at a game of chess, but John didn’t like playing chess. He spent weeks walking her from school to the park where regular players would get together and play chess on a daily basis. He lost every game he tried to play. Then, four months after he proposed to Anne, he was finally able to shout “Checkmate,” on a chilly December night. But this didn’t necessarily mean that John had won Anne over.
Everyone told John that marriage wasn’t easy. Obviously, they never met Anne. Thanks to her, his days began and ended with sheer happiness. Together, they convinced a loan officer to give them the money they needed to put a down payment on a cottage in the outskirts of town. Life was pretty much perfect, until Anne went to see a doctor.
Anne was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was 35. She managed to give John ten amazing years of marriage before she passed away in her sleep. John grieved for his wife, but he knew that he’d see her again in the afterlife. Meanwhile, he never dated, married, or had children because he felt that the time he had spent with Anne gave him a lifetime of satisfaction. But as the years went by and he got older, life became increasingly more difficult.
John’s Yorkie was the only company he needed, but he still continued to go to the park to play chess with his friends. Anne had also left him recipes for Shepherd’s Pie, which was his favorite. He made it every Sunday, just like when she was alive. But he was missing some ingredients, so he went to Walmart. He could have shopped at the store and made his way to the register with his eyes closed, but he never foresaw this.
Anxiety became a recurring theme at his age, but he tried to ignore it as he grabbed a bunch of coins from his left pocket. He shuffled his feet nervously as he picked the change from his left palm using his right hand. The customers were getting angsty. It was busy and the line was growing. Then, one of the coins fell on the counter. John was so embarrassed. He tried to stop it with his hand. His voice shook as he said, “sorry." Then the cashier reached out and touched his hand.
“This is not a problem, honey. We will do this together,” said the cashier. Her name tag read “Emma,” and she took the coins from John’s hand and started counting them. Meanwhile he looked back at the impatient crowd and stood there feeling awkward as Emma wrapped things up. “That’s it!” she said as she patted his hand and offered him a smile. Spring Herbison Bowlin was shocked.
Spring was in the line and she’d seen how kind Emma had been. In fact, she was so moved by her that she went on Facebook and shared the story, which went viral! Emma, the cashier, was praised for her good deed. “I looked at this wonderful woman and said, ‘Thank-you for being so patient with him.’” But Emma’s response left Spring lost for words.
“She shook her head and replied, ‘You shouldn’t have to thank me, baby. What’s wrong with our world is we’ve forgotten how to love one another.’ I want to be more like her,” Spring explained. Hopefully, Emma’s supervisors got wind of her kindness and offered her a raise. Meanwhile, John will likely return to the same register every Sunday to get the best customer service ever.