NSB Shared Story: Amy's Story


By Amy Murphy


A gorgeous day in Southern California; the kids are packed up and in the van; last call to Mom and Dad to let them know we're on the way but we'll make a stop at Walmart, do they need anything? No? Okay, we're off!

Thirty minutes later, 'The Horse in the Gray Flannel Suit' is at "such a good part, Mom! Don't turn it off! Can't you go in and let us stay here and watch the rest?" my children beg. Ah, to be a child and trust the world...

Grudgingly, the children enter the store with me and we start on the list: sweats for Aidan, water shoes for all three, "Oh! Mommy! Look! "How to Tame Your Dragon" shirts! Can we get one, please?!?! They're only five dollars!! Please!!!" Thus begins the shopping.

About an hour later we're in line to pay. The kids are snacking on chicken wings, which I never let them do until AFTER we've paid for everything, but an hour is an hour and they're "starving to death!"

Final shopping total: an even $150, to the penny.

Um. Where's my wallet? Dig, dig, feel the different items in my little backpack bag.


Okay, think. Where could it be? WHAT is going on?? I NEVER take my wallet out of my bag. Yes, I'll put my driver's license and bank card in my back pocket, but I didn't do that this time. My WHOLE WALLET IS NOT IN MY BAG!!!

T H I N K!!! I turn to the young man eager for his break; he's been here since 5:30am I heard him tell the customer before me.

"Um. I don't have my wallet. I know my card number, can you key it in for me?"

"We're not supposed to do that. I'm sorry, but I can't key in a credit card number. If it was a debit card, that'd be fine, but I can't do a credit card. I'd get in trouble."

"Oh! It's a Master Card/Debit card. I can use my PIN. Is that okay?"


"Great, thanks!"

Breathe. Okay. WHERE IS MY WALLET??? I bought new paints and pastels yesterday, I know I had my wallet IN my bag. What is going on?? We didn't go anywhere else.

I give the clerk my card number. Four times. Finally, I enter my PIN. 'Unable to process as a Debit Card' prints out.

"Did you get the number right?" I ask? We try again, and again. Three times in all. The lady behind me just watches. Not angry, just watching.

Seamus and Aidan are munching away. I think to myself, "I don't have ANY cash in my bag. How am I going to pay for the chicken wings they're eating??"

I turn to the clerk, "Can you call a manager over and suspend this order? I'm going to have to drive home to Temecula and find my wallet, and I don't want to hold up anyone any longer." He turns around and calls over the lady with a clipboard at the next lane. I sheepishly smile at the lady behind me, still watching - not staring - just patiently observant.

The manager steps over and gives me a "What's your story," look.

"I'm sorry, but we can't seem to get my card number to process correctly. I live about a half hour away, so could you just suspend the order and keep my things in a cooler?"

"We can't keep things that long, we'll have to put them back. Let me see your card."

"No, I don't have my card. That's the problem. I can't find my wallet. He [the young man helping me] was trying to help me by keying in my card number."

The manager turns to the young clerk and proceeds to scold him in front of me, reiterating the point that a law was passed last year and clerks are NOT to manually key in card numbers or 'they can get in a lot of trouble'.

I interject at this point emphasizing that I requested that he help me with my DEBIT card number and I would enter the PIN. The manager turns to me and informs me that it doesn't matter what kind of a card it is, they cannot be entered manually.

"Please just suspend the order and I'll be as quick as I can."

The manager turns to the register and begins to key in the information when the lady behind me points toward me and says to the clerk, "I'll pay for it. Just put her order on mine."

She looks at me and says, "Is that okay?"

You must understand what I saw in my head at that moment before I go on. My oldest daughter, Morgan, is wearing a baseball hat, a shirt just slightly too small - but still okay, shorts, one tennis shoe and one flip flop. She cut her big toe rather deeply just last night and the sock and shoe are to keep the sand out, but of course she's going to the beach and must wear flip flops - if only on one foot.

Seamus is wearing shorts and a t-shirt and shoes, eating a chicken wing (down to the bone). Fairly presentable aside from the black and gray smears on his face from the chalk pastels he was using in his room this morning to create a Star Wars scene above his bunk bed.

Aidan, shoeless, is sitting in the top front of the cart, gnawing on a bone as if she hasn't eaten for a day. Her clothes are darling.

I, am in an ill-fitting t-shirt, old brown kakhis, flip flops that have flipped a few to many flops, and my hair wrapped around a clip and secured almost in a messy bun. This, paired with no makeup (we're headed to the BEACH!), doesn't exactly scream, "I've got money! I can pay for this! I'm well organized! I know how to take care of my children!"

I'm not implying this was the judgement of anyone around me. I'm just letting you know what was going through MY mind as I hear the woman suggest she'd like to pay for my groceries.

"No, thank you," I reply. Are you kidding me, I think to myself? People pick up the tab for a couple of drinks, a coffee, maybe even a tank of gas for a stranger - but N O T a one-hundred-fifty dollar grocery bill.

"Please," the lady says, again, "it's okay."

"No, it's not okay. It's a hundred-fifty dollars!" I'm incredulous.

"It's okay, really. It'll be my good deed for the day." She looks imploringly at me, then turns to the clerk and held out her card. The clerk and the manager look at me, back at her, then at me again.

In the next flash of an instant I wonder: why would someone do this? how could someone do this? why one earth would I accept this?

And in that same instant, I see all the times I helped someone; gave without asking for anything in return; talked to my own children about generosity; discussed helping and ethics with my students and my giving away two winning tickets at last week's FableVision/Troxell seminar. I hear a small voice in my head ask, "Who are you to N O T be worthy of a gift?"

"Okay." I smile. She looks at me and smiles, "Okay."

"It's not about the money. I have the money. I just don't have my wallet." I realize as I'm saying this that in some way it diminishes her gift, so I stop.

"Thank you. How can I thank you? How do I get in touch with you?" I ask.

"I think I have a card." She digs into her bag and finds a card. I notice that her hands are shaking.

As she hands me the card, her hands are shaking so badly even she says, "I don't know why my hands are shaking so hard!"

I take the card from her. "You're shaking because what you're doing is a very, very good and generous thing."

She just smiled.

"Thank you. I'll be in touch.




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