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Entertaining Angels in the Grocery Store

It was late, getting close to 10 p.m. It was cold, 4 below zero with a 17 below wind chill. I needed quite a few groceries, so I talked myself into the task.

I had a long list plus was also stocking up on easy-to-eat foods for my upcoming surgery.   My legs were in a hurry, but when an elderly gentleman asked me if I could help him find something, my heart said “stop.”

He described what he wanted.  He said, “One of those meals where everything is mixed together.  You then cook it, all in one bag.”

My first thought being a registered dietitian was “high sodium.”

“Is this for you?” I asked.

“Yes, I don’t want anything too complicated.”

I nodded, then said, “Yes, I know where those types of packages are, but could I show you something else – something healthier and more economical, and just as easy to make?”  He laughed and said, “Sure.”

I showed him a box of whole wheat penne noodles, then explained how he would get alot more product than from a packaged box dinner.  With a drizzle of vegetable oil, he could keep the leftover noodles for a few days.  I quizzed him briefly about his food preferences, then handed him a can of lower sodium ready-to-eat beef stew to heat up and pour over the noodles.  We then went to the frozen foods, where we found him some stir-fry vegetables and some packaged stir-fry dinners, other options for those noodles later in the week.  I asked if he liked shrimp or chicken to add to the stir-fry.  He teased me, “No more than two things in a meal, honey.”

I asked if he ever cooked from scratch.  “Oh, no, I’m not that sophisticated.”  He shared how a woman once told him how easy it would be to make a roast.  She told him he couldn’t fail – just stick the thermometer in and let it roast.  He took a nap and when he woke up it was burned to a crisp!

“Oh, no!  You didn’t set a timer?”  He shook his head no.  “Please promise me you will stay with your food when you are cooking!”  I have heard too many stories of fires related to people forgetting what is on the stove. He promised, thanked me for my time, surprised me with a hug, and we went our separate ways.

I saw him again at the checkout – he was visiting with the cashier, having already checked out.  He watched me as I unloaded all of my groceries and then gave the cashier some cash, and said he was “contributing.”  The cashier then told me, “Your bill comes to $1.98.”

“What?  No way!”  She showed me the $125 in bills the man had handed her.  My jaw dropped and I looked over at him as he headed toward the exit.  I protested, “Wait, wait, you can’t do this…”  He waved and said, “Thank you for all your help, and Merry Christmas!”

The cashier said with a big smile, “What can you do?  Just accept it!”

Rather than fight this man’s kindness I chose to accept it, although I regretted not asking for his name.  Perhaps he was an angel.

I first learned about this type of angel when I was very young and watched my mother feed “the hobos” who jumped off trains in the summertime and hid in our backyard.  My mother knew the train schedule so would prepare a full-course picnic meal for them as they came through.  She would wave them over to our picnic table and they would devour the meal while we watched from a distance.  When we asked her why she did it, her answer was always the same: “God says, ‘Be kind to strangers, for you never know when you are entertaining angels.'”

Bon appetit, dear angel.




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