Isn’t it funny how life interrupts us and pulls our eyes off of ourselves?

Gail Perry Johnston is a graphic designer in California. She likes to jog in the middle of the day, but a few months ago, she decided to buy a vacuum at Walmart instead. That was when life interrupted her.

“All I wanted to do was buy a DustBuster, but that’s not as simple as a jog in the park. By the time I found the aisle of vacuum cleaners, added a few more items to my cart and got in the long line to pay, I just wanted to be back at work. When it was my turn, the cashier announced, ‘$43.’

“‘What!?’ I said. ‘I don’t want the DustBuster for that much,’ to which she curtly pointed to the returns counter. There I was, standing in another long line.

“I exited the store, muttering to myself about never shopping at Walmart again. When I tried to back out of my parking space, a steady stream of drivers started coming in. Finally, the way was clear, and I made my move. Only, it wasn’t clear. I nicked another car in the rear fender.

“The driver, who looked to be about 60, jumped out, inspected the damage, put his hands to the sky and shouted at the top of his lungs, ‘Oh, my God, look what has happened to my beautiful car!’ He was so thoroughly dramatic that my bad mood gave way to a chuckle. Sure, I was unhappy with the fender bender, but this was really comical.

“Standing by the distraught man, I assured him my insurance would take care of everything. Instead, he insisted on calling the police, who arrived only to explain they don’t make reports on fender benders in parking lots.

“All the while, I was sincerely trying to calm the man. Finally, he faced me, looked me in the eyes and blurted out what was really going on. ‘I have cancer!’ he said. ‘I’m dying of cancer, but my wife needs me! I need to stay alive for my wife!’

Without a second thought, I reached up my arms to hug him. There we were, in the Walmart parking lot, hugging each other and crying. When he got in his car to leave, it occurred to me that he hadn’t done his shopping.

“‘Wait!’ I said, ‘Weren’t you coming here to buy something? What was it? Let me buy it for you.’ After swearing to never shop at Walmart again, there I was in the store, buying a huge tub of cat food for a stranger.

“When my insurance company called, they said, ‘The driver told us to thank you for the cat food. He really appreciated that.’ I smiled.

“It’s amazing how much I messed up, from my impatience to the fender bender, and yet, something decent came out of it. I occasionally pray for the man and still marvel at how a community of kindness can be built in the most unexpected places.”

Gail Perry Johnston is the author of “The Social Cause Diet” and co-author of “A Rumor of Angels: Quotations for Living, Dying & Letting Go.”

Please continue to share your stories of kindness with me at Or send a letter to Kindness is Contagious c/o Nicole J. Phillips, The Forum, 101 5th St. N., Box 2020, Fargo, ND, 58107.