Friday, February 21, 2014
Good People of Memphis
I am hurriedly shopping at the half-price Goodwill on Highland. It is nearly closing time, precisely fifteen minutes until 6pm and the employees are encouraging customers to make their final selections.
I am digging through the dresses when a lady walks up my aisle from the back of the store. Both of her arms are loaded with donated stuffed animals of every size, color and animal imaginable.
Instantly, I make a judgement about how disgusting used stuffed animals are and the possible amount of infectious germs covering and residing in the fur that cannot be washed away. Those sad, used, and forgotten animals always give me the willies in thrift stores.
Once the lady passes me she heads to the register and I forget about her. My attention is drawn back into the dresses.
My ears perk up when I overhear the Goodwill employee behind the counter ask, "What are your plans with all of these stuffed animals?"
The lady, whose hands are now free, wrings them in the bottom of her number 32 Steelers jersey. She is quiet for a moment, takes a step back, swallows and manages to say, "My daughter died on Sunday."
The air in the store instantly becomes still. The three Goodwill employees behind the counter gasp.
"She was 36 and had congestive heart failure. She has a 20 year old son and a sixteen year old. We are going to put these on her grave."
As a collective two of the three Goodwill employees move around the counter. One of them says, "Oh Baby, that's tough. Let me give you a hug. You need a hug."
The women hold on to each other letting the mother cry. Her shoulders begin to shake and they are holding the mother up, patting her on the back and whispering in inaudible tones of consolation.
One of the Goodwill women grab the husband of the mother. He is wearing a matching Steelers jersey, "You need a hug too."
They pull him into the hug.
I am so moved by the beauty and genuine sincerity of these strangers in this scene in the Goodwill that tears are rolling down my face.
There are good people in Memphis, I am a witness to that.