To the Woman Behind Me in Line at the Grocery Store

Dear woman behind me in line at the grocery store,

You don’t know me. You have no clue what my life has been like since October 1, 2013. You have no clue that my family has gone through the wringer. You have no clue that we have faced unbelievable hardship. You have no clue we have been humiliated, humbled, destitute.
You have no clue I have cried more days than not; that I fight against bitterness taking control of my heart. You have no clue that my husband’s pride was shattered. You have no clue my kids have had the worries of an adult on their shoulders. You have no clue their innocence was snatched from them for no good reason. You know none of this.

What you do know is I tried to buy my kids some food and that the EBT machine was down so I couldn’t buy that food. I didn’t have any cash or my debit card with me. I only had my SNAP card. All you heard was me saying “No, don’t hold it for me. My kids are hungry now and I have no other way of paying for this.” You didn’t judge me. You didn’t snarl “Maybe you should have less kids.” You didn’t say “Well, get a job and learn to support yourself.” You didn’t look away in embarrassment or shame for me. You didn’t make any assumptions at all.

What you did was you paid that $17.38 grocery bill for us. You gave my kids bananas, yogurt, apple juice, cheese sticks, and a peach ice tea for me; a rare treat and splurge. You let me hug you and promise through my tears that I WILL pay this forward. I WILL pay someone’s grocery bill for them. That $17.38 may not have been a lot for you, but it was priceless to us. In the car my kids couldn’t stop gushing about you; our “angel in disguise.” They prayed for you. They prayed you would be blessed. You restored some of our lost faith. One simple and small action changed our lives. You probably have forgotten about us by now, but we haven’t forgotten about you. You will forever be a part of us even though we don’t even know your name.

You have no clue how grateful and embarrassed I am that we pay for all our food with SNAP. We eat well thanks to the government. I love that. I love that the government makes sure my kids are cared for. It is one less worry for us. I also struggle with pride and embarrassment. I defiantly tell people we are on SNAP. Daring them to judge us.

Only those closest to us know why we are on SNAP. They know my husband is a hard worker who was laid off after 17 years in a management position with his former company. They know we were moved from our home to a new state only to be left homeless since the house we had came with the job he lost. Only those closest to us know my husband works part time while looking tirelessly for more; that he has submitted more applications than he has received interviews for. Too many jobs are only offering part time work anymore. It is not easy for a 40-something year old to find a job that will support his family of 5 kids.

You know none of this but you didn’t let that stop you from being compassionate and generous to someone you have never met.

To the woman behind me at the grocery store, you have no idea how much we appreciate you. You have no idea the impact you had on my kids. You have no idea how incredibly thankful I am for you. Your action may have been small, but to us it was monumental. Thank you.

Thank you for not judging us. Thank you for giving my kids a snack when they were quite hungry. Thank you. Just thank you.

Andrea, the woman in front of you at the grocery store with the cart full of kids who are no longer hungry

**UPDATE** Mark got a full time job in the state we call home. He is there now and we will join him once he finds us a home. Thank you all for your prayers and kind words.


1,102 thoughts on “To the Woman Behind Me in Line at the Grocery Store

  1. That was a great story and I hope everyone who reads it will try to help others who may be struggling. I would also advise that everyone concerned about preserving SNAP benefits vote in every election and be aware that some Republicans believe that if you are poor its your own fault and you should watch you children go hungry as punishment. I am not making this up, Paul Ryan actually said this as a reason to eliminate school lunches. Educate yourself and vote

    • I do not want any child to go hungry and I am a Republican. I as a middle class mom have gone hungry just so my kids could eat when they were little. We never qualify for help because we are just above the requirement. I love this story too and I believe that SNAP should continue 🙂

    • What a great read, & a wonderful lady that paid for the groceries! 😇 Me & my husband & our kids live in a home that comes with his job. So if something ever happened to his job, we’d lose our home too. 😞 So I can relate to this story. We live in a high cost area, & we couldn’t make it on my income alone here. This story makes me want to pay it forward as well.

      • We now have a solid back up plan! I work from home! I started my own business. It surely cannot currently support us, but it is a great foundation. Plus, I make my own hours so I can still be here for my children! Wishing you well ❤

  2. I am here to say that I know what others are going through. I am there right now. With my husband being totally disabled. I am working but I also have to have someone with him. I applied for snap but was over the income cause of an 8.00 an hour job. We struggle but make it. I pray that something better comes along but I always make sure that my husband has what he needs then work on the bills. But the state will only help if he goes into a home .

  3. Thank you for sharing your story with us. My family was facing the same situation. Currently I’m working a Temp. job but next month I will be eligible for hire in. I pray they hire me in, I don’t want to go back.

    Prayers for your family, tell the hubby I said stay strong and don’t fear, God has a great plan for him.

  4. Oh, this is so touching. And inspirational – I would love to do this for someone. Such beautiful and powerful writing, too. My heart and love go out to you. ❤

  5. My dear Andrea….you have paid it forward. Blessings to your “angel”! Your heartfelt words are making the rounds. Just today I asked 300-some people on Facebook to do a small kindness this week….in honor of your angel and your family. The world needs this. If only a few of them do so, you will have paid it forward. Very happy that your husband found work and things will get back on track for your family. As a single mom, I have had my struggles financially, but I haven’t had to bear the awful pain of having hungry children. XOXOXO to you and your family! I like to do kind things for people….even though I can’t do much. The next one I do is because of you!

  6. Someday in reflect you will look back and think to yourself “The years of struggle were the most beautiful” Blessings to you and your family….

  7. Andrea –
    I read this today and as someone who has used WIC in the past I have felt some of what you are going through. I was always so embarrassed to use it. My heart just feels for you and your family. I will be praying for you and wanted to know if there is another area you are in need. Will you please email me and let me know? I want to help if possible.
    Emily from Oregon

    • Emily, right now we are good. Once I have Internet access I will update. Our needs are minor right now, but thank you! If you ever need to reach me my email is truestoriesofamidwestyankee @ gmail

  8. This is a great story about the humanity and humility of people it makes me happy to know that both still exist. I’m a stay at home Mom with 2 kids and once my husband lost his job and we needed assistance too.

    I don’t mean to make light of your situation but I was wondering is I was the only one who walked into the grocery store with my card in had and said, Aw SNAP I’m here again?

  9. Thank you for posting this. Your words moved me to tears. My dad is 52 and lost his job as an engineer after 20 years. He works 2 part time jobs to pay the bills, even though he has two masters degrees. We hardly ever see him. I have 8 brothers and sisters. 9 kids is a lot to take care of on minimum wage. After 7 months my parents are getting the hang of this being poor thing. It has been awful, yet humbling. It’s good to know we aren’t the only ones. We are still holding onto our hope. Still praying my dad gets that call that will offer him a job that pays more than $9 an hour. Thank you for sharing your story, it sure made a difference to my family. It encouraged us to keep hoping, keep praying, and keep believing that God will provide! It also served as a powerful reminder to pay it forward. Thank you!

  10. A friend shared this on FB and I just happened on your story!! I hope that you have moved by now and that you are doing well!!! I have my own business that can be done from anywhere, and would love to share the opportunity with you! It’s not a scam, you won’t be putting hundreds of dollars into it and see nothing. I have been able to bless my kids and family with a few things in just the few months I have been working!! The upside is that my kids have enjoyed helping me and don’t mind when I have to do a little “work” because they know mom is doing it for them!!! You have email if you want to contact me!!! I hope you have a blessed day!!!

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  12. Reblogged this on My Enterprising Life. and commented:
    BE CAREFUL OF YOUR ASSUMPTIONS: I have heard on more than one occasion what society thinks about families on welfare. And, all to often I speak up to tell them the story of my mother, how she came to be a single parent, her working to put her self through undergrad and graduate school, and how the money went to feed us. We didn’t have a lavish lifestyle at all. What I do know is that we had what we needed through both welfare and the generosity of people who saw something in my Mom, did not judge, and asked for nothing in return. And for that I am thankful.

  13. I enjoyed the story. I have two things to ask.
    One: with the attention this story has gained has the media tried to locate your kind stranger? I’d be curious to know more about her. Maybe she would prefer to be private but I would like to know what prompted her to be so kind.
    Two: I’ve read over half your blog in one sitting. You are a great writer! Maybe you could look at ways of getting paid to do it? I think you could.

  14. Dear Midwest Yankee.. I happened to watch ABC World News Tonight and saw your story and blog mentioned. Earlier this year, I helped a young woman in front of me at the checkout at IGA who found herself short when trying to purchase some items. I do not know if it was you I helped that day but if it was, you are very welcome.

    I am happy to hear you and your family have landed on your feet in a new place and your husband has found work.

    • Annie, it is people like you who make the world a better place ❤ Blessings to you and thank you for being a kind soul. Now that things are (slowly but steadily) picking up I have been doing small deeds to pay it forward. I have taken to driving to where the homeless hang out and handing out dollars. It isn't much and people think I am crazy, but I know it is the right thing to do right now 🙂

  15. Hi! I am in the same boat. My husband a jr/high school social studies teacher lost his job in 2010. I lost my job in the mortgage industry in 2008. I was pregnant with our 1st child. I was devastated. My hubby kept teaching. We were desperate. My mom flew us home for the summerso my hubby ccould work bc there were no jobs in AZ. We came to PA, my husband worked his hinie off all summer. Things were looking up. I got pregnant with my 2nd. I was thrilled. It wasn’t expected and since things were looking up for us we took it as a sign that things would continue to get better. My brother moved in so we all could have a little easier time financially. It was awesome! In April my husband was told the middle school he was working at was closing. We were in a panic. What was going to happen now?! It was so stressful. Our dear friends called us and said “we have a job for my hubby, but you have to come back to PA” So we packed it up, borrowed money from anyone who could lend it to us, and moved back home, and in with my parents. My hubby started work about 1 week after we got to PA. It was amazing. Not in teaching but in construction. We got our own place, my hubby was mm along a ton of money. So we decided it was time for that final addition to our family. We got pregnant with our 3rd! I was beyond excited. I thought this is it. This will be the baby who has everything and anything! I was so wrong. I had to be hospitalized bc of hyperemisis. On my 2nd day in the hospital my hubby showed up in the late afternoon. I couldn’t believe it, he got laid off! That was in 2011. We have been on MA and SNAP ever since bc he can not get a teaching job, he’s applied for 1000’s of jobs, had 100’s of interviews, he’s even driven 5 hours 1 way for an interview. He got a job at a bar. It wasn’t great but it was a check. I keep telling myself this isn’t it, it’s not forever. One day it will change for us and I’ll be able to help someone in way that I’ve been helped.

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  18. Somebody paid my bill at the grocery store two days ago and I was trying to find a way to express how grateful I’m; that is how I found your story. Yes, it was a small amount but the action was giant, this lady who tried to be very discreet because she didn’t want to shame me, I saw her as an angel; I blessed and thank her thousandth of times. Thanks for expressing your feelings in such a beautiful way, and yes! I also want to be an angel for somebody else and testify people that God uses persons and circumstances to bless us.

    • Thanks for sharing! I am so glad people are still so good inside ❤ Things are slowly getting easier for us so we have been able to do small things to pay it forward, but I am still waiting to do something major. I can't wait to be able to bless someone in such a way that they are forever impacted. I know that our blessings have impacted us in a way they will last forever. My kids still talk about the kindness we have received

  19. Reblogged this on The Preacher's Child and commented:
    Paying It Forward. Everyone can continue to learn to be more compassionate to others situations. It is true so many people abuse the system which causes others to be skeptics but I am beginning to rebuild my sense of compassion for others and know that one day my test will soon come also. God Bless Andrea and her family.

  20. As a Cashier at a small grocery store, in a low income area, I find myself feeling awful when people only purchase a fraction of what is in their cart. Poverty is everywhere and not everyone who desperately needs SNAP receive it. Its sad knowing people are hungry, and worse knowing children are worrying as adults about meals. Giving up a few dollars, we would probably Spend on something we could go without, seems like a no brainer.
    Of course people abuse the system, but a majority of those collecting food assistance genuinely need it to survive. I see benefits being spent all day, and I can truly say that most folks collecting are actively working to improve their situation to eliminate their need so they too can pay into the system.
    Thank you for seeing her without judgment – you are an everyday HERO mystery ma’am and I hope receivers letter finds you well via viral news.

  21. We are a nonprofit food bank in west central Wisconsin and we are inspired by your article! Would you consider giving us permission to reprint the article in our newsletter? We think it would help in raising awareness and educating our community on the value of the SNAP program. We love the message!

    Feed My People Food Bank
    Suzanne Becker, Assistant Director
    Eau Claire, WI 54703

    • I am so sorry it took me awhile to get back to you. I stepped away from my blog to live life to the fullest! I will be back and writing in full force with a POSITIVE outlook on SNAP recipients! Yes, you may reprint this with proper credit to me 🙂
      Let me know if you get my reply. I f I do not hear back I will email you personally

      • Thank you Andrea! So glad you are back to writing. We are starting a major effort to communicate the availability of SNAP to families in need as well as to educate the public and build awareness. I am looking for different ways to spread the message. This will be so helpful. Thank you! All credit to you of course!

        I look forward to reading more.


  22. Just saw this story on Huffington Post! I’m so glad that things are looking up and prayers have been answered! Thank you for sharing! There is an important lesson in this story…bone of not judging others, and to realize that there is so much more going on in the lives of others than we know. I have been there too! May God bless you and your family for sharing such a heartfelt story to open the eyes of so many out there who express hostility toward others. 💖✨

  23. What an incredible story and an amazing blessing! I’m glad you shared your experience with us & I hope things are looking up for your family. I was laid off from my job as well and the small cleaning company that I had on the side was effected by the recent floods in South Carolina. Since we didn’t have property damage (only loss of business/clients due to road closures,etc) we aren’t eligible for the financial assistance or FEMA. We are fortunate not to have lost our home in the flood, but now we are about to lose it because we can’t afford the rent. Anyway, thank you again for sharing and encouraging others to pay it forward. You’ve helped me realize Life is what we make it; there are many ups and down but in the end, everything will be okay.

    • Tamra, I know it has been a long time, but I hope things are going better for you. I have often wondered how people are doing who commented here.

  24. I just read this story and it reminded me to the woman in the Post Office in Shreveport, LA that paid my 20$ postage for the package I was sending to my mother in Bulgaria. I thanked her then and told her the difference it made to me then and I thank her now again. Thank you, your action has made me a better person

    • You are so sweet. Years later I have been able to pay it forward to others countless times. In a world of struggle, always choose kindness. ❤

    • You misread. I said my life changed in Oct 2013. I did NOT say this incident happened in October 2013. This is what is written “You have no clue what my life has been like since October 1, 2013.”
      The post was written the day after the incident. Look at the blog date. So yes, this happened in March, 5 months after my world went upside down….5 months into what would end up being a 3 year journey.
      Hope that clarifies a little for you.

      • All this time later and this person is trying to make you into a liar? Really? This is why I hate the internet. People sit behind their computers and find any way to pass judgement. I hope you and your family are doing well, “Midweat”.

      • People just need to slow down when they read 😉 lol. No skin off my nose. Everyone else reads it correctly. We are doing well, Thank you for inquiring. I really need to be better about writing, but I am so focused n being present with my family. I need to make all the positive memories I can ❤

  25. Hello! I’m not sure if you keep tabs on this nowadays… I first read your article 4yrs ago today 4/7/18. It popped up on my Facebook page under “On This Day”… I’m re-sharing because it’s a good story and because since then I’ve tried to do little things “just because”. I don’t care if the other person needs it or not, I like to think that I made them smile. Sometimes that’s all it takes to help someone’s day go better. My favorite thing to do is pay for the order behind me in the coffee shop’s drive-thru line.

    I’ve not been your exact position but I had a similar encounter… Several years ago I had a miscarriage – it was very early in the pregnancy & I doubt I would have realized it if I hadn’t been trying to get pregnant. I was taking my temp everyday & keeping track of what day in my cycle it was. It through me for a loop & that following Mon morning I went through the school zone near my house. The crossing guard was ALWAYS bouncy & peppy and purposefully waved & smiled at each car. He didn’t know it but he “fixed” me that morning. He made me smile & sent me right back into my routine.

    I hope things have righted themselves for you!

    Thank you for sharing your story!

    • Thank you for sharing this! I can’t believe it has only been 4 years since I had that encounter with that stranger who was so kind! It feels like an eternity has passed.

      I still thrive on paying it forward and I adore stories like yours! It helps me not give up on humans completely 😉

      I am sorry to hear you had a miscarriage. I am 1 in 4 also, so I get it. Early or late, it is a loss and it sucks. I am so glad you encountered kindness when you most needed it. Hoping your life is full of blessings!


  26. Hi, Andrea.

    Somehow I forgot that I do have a Google+ account that I created about 5 years ago. I never go there, no one does. But there is one story that I saved on my feed that I happen to see again today after 4 years…. your story. It was on Huffington Post but the link sent me here.

    I have paid for a family’s groceries before, never expecting anything in return. God forbid my family end up in the same situation, it would be nice if someone lends a helping hand.

    Your story is very special to me. When I read it, it reminds me to not be judgmental and instead, be more compassionate. Every person has their own stories of success and struggle… I always thought of this whenever I see homeless people. “That guy is someone’s son, father, or grandfather. That lady is someone’s mom, etc… or that they used to be very successful in life but hard times struck them for one reason or another…”

    I’m glad to hear you and your family are doing better. May your family continue to prosper!

  27. Hi, How are you? I hope you and your family are living well. I heard your story long time ago, I shared this in my Japanese Blog at that time so I just visited again. Please take care.

    • Hi Erika, We are well enough. I should make an update post because so much has happened over the years! I still write but I never actually post since I never have time to edit. My kids are growing fast and my oldest is now in college!
      Thank you for reaching out!

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