Since all I've been doing since we got back from vacation is going through my Giant Pile of Papers in preparation for school and unpacking, I thought I'd take you back to a story from a few years ago...
Let me set the scene: A couple weeks before Christmas, FRIGID temperatures, four boys (Pickle wasn't born yet).
We decided to make a pilgrimage to Target to get a few odds and ends needed for Christmas, plus, the older boys had some money saved and they wanted to go off on their own at Target and buy some gifts for me and Don.
So we parked the car and crunched through the icy parking lot toward Target. It was so cold, that even a brief walk required hats and gloves and scarves. This was the kind of cold that made your brain feel like it was frozen and wouldn't start functioning properly until you got inside and it began thawing.
You know how it goes at Target--you go in for a few things and $200 later (on a good day!) you come out with a shopping cart brimming with bags of stuff you just had to get. Since the kids were doing their own shopping as well, we had TWO shopping carts full of Target necessities.
We bundled up and headed out into the bitter, stinging cold. We navigated through the cars and I started digging for my keys which I specifically remembered putting in my coat pocket.
They weren't there.
This led to a frantic search--through every conceivable pocket, through my entire purse--and then over again, all in the sub-zero temperatures. The keys weren't anywhere.
I herded all the kids and the shopping carts back into Target and asked the people at the customer service desk if anyone had turned in keys. Nobody had. That led to retracing our steps through Target--up and down the aisles searching for the keys--nothing.
I went back outside with the kids and searched the sidewalk and the parking lot. I stopped into the stores we had walked by on the way to Target--Famous Footwear and Michael's--neither had seen the keys.
We trudged back to Target and I became more hysterical with every passing minute. How was I going to get home? A cab? But I was off somewhere in suburbia--I wasn't even sure what town I was in. What cab company was I supposed to call? And then finding a cab big enough to hold all of us. Plus car seats? Plus all these stupid bags? I was full-blown hysterical now.
I asked again at the customer service desk--still nothing. I called Don frantically from my cell phone. He was trying to find a cab company for me to call and the plan was to take a cab home, get the spare keys, then cab back to Target and get the car. I was afraid someone would find the keys and just drive off with it!
He gave me a possible number and I dialed it and was trying to get through the phone robots and talk a real person so I could explain my situation.
Suddenly, a woman appeared out of nowhere. She signaled me away from the phone and said she had overheard my phone call to Don. She asked if I needed a ride home.
She went on to say that she had four kids that weren't with her right now and that she had a minivan with four car seats in it outside. I think I heard a choir singing and saw a white light encircling her. She was like an angel!
But--no. Of course, I could never impose on someone like that. With my four crying kids and ten million bags. Plus I needed to go home and get the keys, then come back for the car.
"Please," she insisted. "I want to do it. It will be my good deed for Christmas."
We went back and forth a little, and finally I decided that, yes, I would take her up on her super kind offer. I think I said thank you a thousand times as she helped me get the kids and all the bags into her car. Then she had to drive us a good 15-20 minutes to my house--I ran in and got the keys--then the drive back to Target.
Honestly, this woman was beautiful inside and out. She looked like she could have been a movie star and she obviously had a heart of gold. We talked in the car like we were old friends and she told me all about her kids and asked questions about mine.
When we got back, she helped me transfer the kids and bags into my car and I begged for her address so I could send her some kind of thank you.
When I got home, I called a florist and ordered her a flower arrangement as a thank you. I gave them the address but they also needed a phone number (which I didn't have) because they had to call and arrange a delivery time due to the bitter cold. When I said I didn't have the number, the florist was like "Sorry..." Then I went on a long ramble about this angel woman and the keys and the kids--and the florist said "Don't worry. I'll get the flowers to her and I'll make an extra-special arrangement."
Ever since, my Target friend and I have been Christmas card pals--trading little notes and pictures of the kids at Christmastime.
And where were those keys? When we got back into the car, I stopped into Target again just in case the keys had appeared--still no. Then I stopped back into the other stores we had walked by. Turns out, they had been at Michael's all the time! Someone had found them on the sidewalk outside the store and turned them in. The "manager" had locked them in a drawer then went to lunch with out telling anybody. Grrrrrrrr.
As frustrating as this experience was, I'm kind of glad it happened. When I'm in one of my "I hate everybody" moods, I think back on the kindness of this woman and it reminds me that there are really amazing people out there!