A couple of days before Christmas, I went to the Evanston Aldi grocery store to pick up one item, and for a change, that was all I got.

When I went to check out, there was a male senior citizen standing at the beginning of the checkout counter holding a bag containing groceries. I thought he was waiting for an employee to bring him something, so I just got behind him.

Ahead of him at the end of the counter stood two young men paying the cashier. The counter was empty in between.

The man continued to stand in place. Finally, I asked, “Excuse me, but are you in line?” He gave me an unpleasant look and muttered something as he emptied his bag of groceries onto the counter and walked toward the cashier.

By this time, the two men in front of him had paid and left the line. Now, this may not have any relevance to this man standing at a distance from the two men that were checking out in front of him, but this man was white and the two men that had stood in front of him were black. 

When the man’s groceries were totaled, the man didn’t have enough money to pay for everything. He removed one can from his bag as he tried to decide what to put back in order to reduce the amount he owed. I asked the cashier, “How much is he short?”

The man looked at me and started repeating with an accent, “No, no, no, no.”

I asked again, “How much is he short?”

The cashier said, “Twenty cents.”

I said, “I’ll pay it.”  “No, no, no, no,” the man repeated.

I said cheerfully, “It’s Christmas.  It’s Christmas, and I’m going to pay it. I’m going to pay it.”

I gave the cashier a quarter as the man stood looking at me without saying a word.

The cashier gave me my nickel in change and then rang up my item.

The man looked at me as he bagged his groceries and said quietly, “Thank you.” 

“You are so welcome,” I said, giving him a big smile.

As I walked away, the man said much louder, “Thank you. Have a nice Christmas.”

“Thank you, ” I said, looking back at him, “You, too.”

Humph, I thought to myself, it’s the season to be kind no matter what the resistance.

Peggy Tarr has been a columnist for the Evanston RoundTable since its founding in 1998. Born in Bruce Springsteen's hometown of Freehold, New Jersey, she graduated from Rutgers University with a degree...