I leave work Friday afternoon and get to Lowe’s on upper Peach Street at 5:30 p.m., but I don’t see the girls set up in the lobby. I find them just beyond the registers, in the vestibule between the store and the exterior doors.
Kelly is wearing her green Girl Scouts vest, adorned with Brownie and Daisy Scout patches. I know they don’t belong on there —the brown badges are supposed to go on the Brownie sash and the Daisy patches on the blue vest—but what would be the point in ironing them onto vests and sashes they’re never going to wear? So the night before, I ironed everything onto their green Girl Scout vests and hoped nobody would point it out. I’m not sure they’d care anyway.
“Would you like to buy some…. Oh, Hi, Mom!” Kelly yells and gives me a hug. Her friend, Morgan, standing off to the side.
Lauren is behind a folding table adorned with deteriorating poster board signs covered in stickers, glitter and multi-colored marker—“Girl Scout Cookies – $4” “Cash, Credit and Debit accepted!” On the yellow tablecloth, they have lined up rows of cookies in colorful boxes.
Lauren, claiming to be too shy to ask people to buy cookies, is working the money box – collecting payment and dispensing change with some assistance from the troop leader.
“Mom, can we get some more Tagalongs, please?” Lauren begs.
“We’ll see,” I say, brushing her question off. I don’t want to spend another $4 on cookies. We’ve sunk plenty into this little fundraiser already.
I stand awkwardly off to the side, unsure of whether I need to stay or just come back to pick up the girls at 8 p.m. I end up staying so that there are two adults, but I cram myself in between two reconditioned snowblowers, away from the sales action.
If I had to sell things for a living, my family would starve to death. I hate asking people for anything, but most of all, I hate asking people for money or to buy things. This is why I cut checks directly to the PTO and buy my way out of school fundraisers year after year. Here’s a check for $50. Keep your cookie dough. Your gift wrap. Your chocolate bunnies. Your pepperoni balls. Your magazine subscriptions.
I feel guilty asking people to part with their hard-earned cash and I feel bad making them feel guilty if they don’t want to buy.
My kids, however, seem to have no qualms about it. Even Lauren has gotten over it and, at the urging of her sister, has traded spots and now she is standing at the door, asking each exiting customer if they’d like to buy any Girl Scout cookies.
Smart move putting her out there. She’s little and cute and wearing pigtails. She still has that squeaky voice and is nearly irresistible when she says, “Excuse me, would you like any Girl Scout cookies? We take cash, credit and debit.”
Lauren reels in a lot of fish, feeding them to the other girls at the cookie table.
An older couple comes out. The man is a big guy wearing an orange shirt over his protruding beer belly. He’s wearing a scruffy beard, a camo sweatshirt, and a dirty ball cap.
“Would you like to buy some Girl Scout cookies?” she queries.
“What? Girl Scout cookies? I don’t know,” he says.
I’m listening with one ear and watching out of the corner of my eye, wondering if he’s going to yell at her. I can’t tell if he’s really grumpy or just kidding with her.
I can tell by her face that she’s not sure either.
“What’s your favorite kind?” he asks her.
She looks over at me. I decide he’s just teasing her, so I raise my eyebrows, nod my head and mouth, “Tagalongs.”
“Tagalongs!” she says emphatically. “They’ve got peanut butter and chocolate on top!”
“OK, then, give me one of those,” he says.
Lauren goes to the cookie table and gets a box of Tagalongs as he fishes a $5 bill out of his pocket. He hands her the money and tells her to keep the change. And the cookies.
She looks over at me confused.
I raise my eyebrows again and give her a big smile.
She wraps both arms around her box of cookies and manages to yell a thank you before he’s out the door.
Then she stands there for several seconds, stunned, hugging her cookies, tears welling up in her eyes, repeating, “That is so nice. That’s just so nice. I can’t believe he bought these for me.”
I can’t believe it either.
“Lauren,” I say. “You know what that was? That was a random act of kindness, you know like the kind you were helping me do at Christmas. Isn’t that cool?”
The Tagalongs didn’t last long. Devoured by Lauren and her friends, fellow Girl Scouts and her cousins, every one of the cookies was gone by breakfast.
But the sweet taste of kindness lingers. Inspires. Restores. Teaches.
About Just Write
“What ends up revealing itself when free writing is that everything has meaning. That is a magnificent gift of writing. If we write from a free heart-gut place, our souls start speaking.”