17 September 2012

A Gallon of Milk

Late afternoon at the grocery store.  My Tato is watching his wnuczki while I run to the store and buy some milk, bread, frozen lasagna, and some ready-made salads for my lunches.

I'm waiting in line behind a Hispanic couple.  The woman has a child on her hip, thumb in her little mouth, less than 1 year old.  There are two other children in the plastic red car shaped shopping cart.  None are old enough to be in school yet.

They have a gallon of milk and bread for their purchase.  That's all.

The man is trying to pay for the food with a WIC check.  He's confused.  The woman is quiet and looking on, you can see she is stressed.  Their clothing is mismatched, stretched, the way clothing looks when you are given final hand-me-downs.  The woman doesn't have makeup on and you can tell she tried to do the best she could with her hair with an extremely limiting budget.  They only speak Spanish.

The check is old, it expired a couple of days ago.  They flip through their WIC folder with the cashier.  There are no new checks.

I feel uncomfortable.  I'm not sure how I understand the conversation.  Body language, Dora the Explorer, an insane amount of curiosity (or am I too proud to say that I'm nosey?).

They pull to the side and start talking to one another in whispers.  The cashier starts to ring me up while another worker goes to put their items back.

"Stop.  I'll buy their milk and bread."

The workers pause, look at me as if I have three heads.  I blush.  I gesture to the family and tell the cashier, "I don't speak Spanish.  Could you please tell them not to leave?  I need to buy their bread and milk."

I mean it.  I need to.

What is $5?  Perhaps dinner for that family.  A family that lives in my community.  A family with three small children and two parents who are obviously just trying.

I'm still blushing.  I toss a smile on my face because I know the last thing that family needs is a look of pity and I'm not sure what my face is communicating.  I don't feel pity.  Pity means you can't relate to the person but still feel sorrow for them.

And I can relate.  That mother and father, they are in the same position as my parents were years ago.  And nobody gave a shit when my parents were at the store and unable to buy something as simple as bread and milk for my brother and I. 

The cashier walks over to the mother, talks to her in Spanish, gestures to me, and I put my hands together, almost in prayer. 

My thoughts...

Please, just let me.  It's only milk.  I need this as much as you do.  Please.

The mother looks at her husband, he glances, shrugs his shoulders in a way that men are so capable of doing.  He looks down at his feet, turns slightly so that his shoulder is pointing at me. 

His body language says it all...

I'm embarrassed.  I can't provide for my family.  But we need this.  Don't make eye contact with me, don't see the look on my face.

But he knows as much as I do, children come before pride.

I'm mentally kicking myself.  I just embarrassed them.  It wasn't my intention.  But I needed to help.

The mother walks up, nods her head at me, takes the milk the cashier hands her.  She refuses the bread.  I understand.  That would be too much pride lost.

It's just a gallon of milk.  But it's infinitely more.

They walk away.  I take a deep breathe.  I say a mental prayer.  For them, for me, for everyone and everything.  God, give us strength to give help and to accept help.

Na razie...


Anonymous said...

That was very sweet of you, but it baffles me that people would have kids when they don't have the means to provide for them. That man should be ashamed.

Polish Mama on the Prairie said...

I'm sorry you feel that way, but let's keep in mind that you and I don't know them and don't know what they have gone through. Walk a mile in someone's shoes. Have a beautiful Monday.

Janie said...

It is so easy to judge and so hard to love in a way that is comfortable to both parties sometime. I know that family saw Jesus that day through you Kasia. <3

off kilter said...

God bless you for doing this, and for writing about it. How much better the world would be if we all just practiced these little acts of compassion instead of judging people for being poor. I hope your children say you do this.

Stacy said...

I am crying at my desk reading this. Perhaps because I am pregnant but I think more because you have done a beautiful thing and my daily trials and tribulations pale in comparison to that family. I am happy I found your blog today and I will be following you.

Polish Mama on the Prairie said...

Thank you, Janie. Hugs to your family!

Polish Mama on the Prairie said...

Aww, thanks, off kilter. A random act of kindness is never too small. I hope people continue to pass the love too. My kids see it, yes. And hopefully it.will.rub off.

Polish Mama on the Prairie said...

Hi Stacy! May I ask how you found me? I'm sending you a wish for a happy, healthy child. :)

Stacy said...

I found you when I was looking for the polish word for stuffed peppers. I was trying to remember it but couldn't for the life of me. My great grandparents were both from Poland and did not speak English. While I never knew them, I was pretty close to my grandfather (their son) until he died when I was about 10. My mother grew up eating some fantastic foods as you can imagine(which I still make!). Somehow your link came up during my search. I am glad it did! Thank you for the well wishes! :)

pearl said...

You did such a wonderful thing; it's good to know that actions like yours exist, because often times people might feel too uncomfortable to do the same (for fear of embarrassing the persons) or just flat out don't want to help. It is often that I am wasteful, even if it wasn't intentional, I feel the guilt that is inside knowing that I had not taken enough care to use up every bit of food that I had because there are so many starving out there. And always, with generosity the only thing that is hoped for is that it is passed on in some way later on ... that if the one is helped is somehow in a position to help, they find it in their hearts to give in the same way. Your post was really inspiring, thanks for sharing ;)

(Also, if you are wondering how I might've found your weblog as well, I had tried to find blogs from Polish writers so that I could learn more about traditions, customs, culture, language etc because my significant other is Polish! You do a great job of it by the way!)

Polish Mama on the Prairie said...

Stacy, miło cie poznać! Nice to meet you.

Polish Mama on the Prairie said...

Pearl, thank you for the kind words! I hope posts like this spark discussion among all of us about charity and the full picture of it. In no way do I write to pat myself on my back about it, in fact, as a dear friend of mine said, rather I'm mentally working out the full impact of actions like this and sharing. May we all be blessed in our hour of need and may we all be blessed to be able to help those in need as well.

Btw, I'll readily admit to being a bit of a food boarder and wasteful of the food I buy. I don't see it as so terrible, though, and nor should you. We can only do so much and as long as we strive to do some good, that's a beautiful thing.

Anonymous said...

I have been that Spanish family standing in line and not enough money for my things. There was a person like you there to help me. Praise the Lord for people like you. Because someone helped me I always try to help others if I can. As a half polish mom glad I found this blog.

Polish Mama on the Prairie said...

Anon, thank you for visiting and commenting! Your perspective was so sweet. :)