After fueling the car, I went inside the C-store at a Pilot Truck Stop near Omaha, Nebraska and grabbed two bananas. A man in wheel chair was in line ahead of me paying for his items. When the cashier handed him his change, he dropped a coin.
I set my fruit on the counter, freeing my hand so I could bend over to retrieve the coin for him. The quick cashier rang up my items and said, “Fifty cents, please.” Just as quick, the man reached down and picked up his fallen coin - a quarter. He set it on the counter, saying, “Here. I’ll pay for one of them.” I smiled and thanked him. Before I could dig my change out of my pocket, he poked through the coins in his hand, placing another quarter on the counter saying, “Let me get them both.” I again thanked him, “Wow! Nobody ever bought me a banana, let alone two! Thank you!” We shared a good laugh over that. Very sincerely I said to him, “Merry Christmas, my friend.” He nodded upward with his head, “Peace, brother.” he replied. I left with my bananas, feeling really good about that whole exchange.
A few miles down the road, I reached for my coffee. “What? I forgot to get coffee?” No problem, a blue road sign indicated there was a Mc Donald’s just a mile up the road. I turned off at the next exit.
The man in line ahead of me was wearing a florescent green vest with the reflective stripes. After ordering his breakfast the cashier told him his total. He handed her a bill saying, “Here. Take it out of this five hundred.” I smiled and said to the cashier, “I hate to see him break a five hundred dollar bill, just for breakfast. Throw my coffee on there too, to make it worth breaking.” We all had a good laugh.
The man said, “It was five hundred pennies, not dollars.” then told the cashier, “but go ahead and get him a coffee.” “I was going to have a cookie too.” I said. “Well, then give him a cookie, too.” he told the cashier, shaking his head, still laughing. The cashier asked me, “Chocolate chip, or oatmeal raisin?” “Seriously? It’s breakfast time.” I said, “Oatmeal raisin, of course.” I then muttered, “Are you kidding me? Who eats chocolate chip cookies for breakfast?” We all shared another laugh.
A girl behind the counter handed me a tray with my cookie and coffee. I thanked the man again for his generosity and wished each of them a Merry Christmas. “Merry Christmas to you, too.” they both replied in unison.
A lady behind us was listening to all of this and with a southern drawl said, “What about me?” The three of us - the cashier, the man in the fluorescent green vest and myself, simultaneously said, “Merry Christmas!” She smiled from ear to ear and replied, “Well, Merry Christmas, y’all.” My day was made.
Fifty cents for two bananas and $1.14 for a cookie and a cup of coffee. Those two gestures were worth far more than the forty dollars worth of gas I just put in the tank.
I started the car, depressed the clutch pedal and moved the shifter into first gear. I glanced at the GPS. “529 miles to Boulder, Colorado.” I said out loud to my dog, “Put your seat belt on, June. This will be a fast trip.” June stared at me blankly as if to say, “What about me?” Giving her a brisk rub on the head, I said, “Merry Christmas, June Bug.” “Merry Christmas, Dad.” She said, then smiled and looked contently out the front windshield.
Tom can be reached for comment at Facebook.com/Tom.palen.98