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Mom blogger writes viral letter to woman behind her in grocery store line

Gardner's photo of the grocery store receipt showing the small bill, but one that meant so much to her and her family.
Andrea Gardner / Huffington Post

Andrea Gardner is a Midwest mother of five who, like many, are left careworn by the endless struggles of middle-income finances. Gardner also is a blogger for the Huffington Post, and she writes on her bio page: “When I am not driving my kids to various activities I like to write about my every day life in order to have a record for them to look back on.”

Gardner’s most recent commentary, carried by the Huffington Post on April 4, is entitled: To the Woman Behind Me in Line at the Grocery Store. Her post, directed to a good Samaritan waiting behind her in line, is striking a chord with struggling families everywhere, and has quickly gone viral.

Gardner writes of the multiple problems her family of seven have been fraught with since October of 2013. Her “family has gone through the wringer,” and she has been faced with “unbelievable hardships,” and left “humiliated, humbled, destitute.”

Gardner writes:

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.

Gardner, whose family receives benefits through the government’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), writes that she was recently unable to pay for her grocery bill because the store’s EBT machine was down, and she had no other money on her. She writes how utterly embarassed she was. And yet, she says an unidentified woman behind her paid for the bill, no questions asked and minus the expected impatient attitude.

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.

The married mom writes that the woman’s gesture of paying for the few items she had – bananas, yogurt, apple juice, cheese sticks, and a “peach ice tea for me; a rare treat and splurge” – will not go unheeded. She promises to pay it forward as it were; to one day pay for another person’s grocery bill.

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.

She closes by writing:

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

Forever,

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

As a writer and news hound, how refreshing it is to come across a story like this one, as opposed to the archetypal daily dose of disheartening reports that grab us with their shocking reveal of just how appalling humanity can be.

Score one for the good guys, and thank you to Andrea for taking time to pen such a compelling post.

Head over to the Huffington Post for Andrea's full article. And please pass this on.