There is something to be said about being in the right place at the right time. It feels fortuitous, almost like someone is watching out for us or that our interactions are predetermined.

But instead of hoping to be in the right place at the right time, I long to be more aware of my surroundings. I want to be attentive enough to the people around me to know when they need a helping hand or an extra dose of generosity.

You might say the woman who sent in the following story was in the right place at the right time, but I think she just has a great eye for kindness.

“My daughter and I ran into the grocery store to buy fruit and salad fixings for a reunion the following day. We grabbed all the groceries we needed and as we were going to the empty checkout line, the cashier said, ‘It will be a minute, the lady before you is just running to get a different bag of grapes.’

“In less than a minute, a young woman came back with a small bag of grapes. She looked at us apologetically and gave the cashier her fruit. She pulled out her wallet and said, ‘Can I pay for some of this in cash and put the rest on my card?’

“I looked at the total on the screen. It was $11.63. As we waited for her to count her change, I realized she had put a bigger bag of grapes back and replaced it with a smaller one. It became obvious that money was really tight for this young woman.

“I grabbed a $5 bill and tried to discreetly hand it to the cashier to cover the rest of the tab. The cashier told the young woman (in front of my daughter and me) that she didn’t need to use her card and that I had given her some money.

“I will never forget the look on this young woman’s face. She was almost in shock as she turned to say thank you with tears in her eyes. Then she asked if she could hug me.

“As I gave her a hug and fumbled for words, I said, ‘Good job eating your fruit. I wish I could get all my kids to eat grapes.’

“She went on to tell me she had worked all day and that I couldn’t possibly know how much this meant to her. She was a student at a local college studying theater and living with her mom. As we walked out, my 7-year-old daughter asked, ‘Mom, why did that lady want to give you a hug?’

“The best part of the whole experience was explaining to my little girl what had just happened. I got to teach my daughter that it wasn’t about the $5 we gave the lady, but rather how noticing her situation and caring enough to help made the young woman feel.”

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.