I was at the grocery store recently when the woman behind me in line tried to return a pair of hubcaps.

There’s nothing wrong with them. I just need groceries more than I need hubcaps.

That’s what she said. The hubcaps cost $14. Fourteen dollars was the difference between her eating or not eating.

You may be picturing her in your mind. I’d wager your picture is wrong. She was a nicely dressed woman in her 50’s who would have fit right in at a corporate office. Perhaps she used to work in one.

“Like I said, there’s nothing wrong with them,” she repeated.

The store manager took pity on her and let her return the perfectly good hubcaps. In place of them, she slid a small pile of groceries down the conveyor belt.

It’s easy for us to make excuses. Isn’t this the government’s job? What about food stamps? But it’s easy for people to fall through the cracks of a system that’s largely indifferent to them. Paperwork gets lost, caseworkers don’t show up, appointments are all booked until three weeks from Tuesday, etc.

The economic devastation of this pandemic is very real. And it may be a lot closer than we think. I certainly didn’t expect it right behind me in line at the grocery in my well-off town.

How can we help? A favorite charity of mine is the Salvation Army. It provides food to people who have nowhere else to turn. You can donate here.

Have a great weekend and a happy Valentine’s day, everyone!

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Photo: “Swan, homeless, on Mission St.” by Franco Folini is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

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