To The Little Boy In Target,
Yesterday, we were in the same checkout line. You instantly caught my eye. Perhaps, it's the maternal nature I possess. I took in your sandy brown hair and your soulful brown eyes, but most of all, I took in how out of place you looked without a parent. I watched you struggle with the weight of your basket, and I watched you take things out of it, one by one, to put on the belt. I also watched your eyes, the eyes that were intently scanning the candy section by the register. I saw your face turn up into a smile as you saw the bubble gum you wanted. I also saw you look down at the money you had, then back at the gum, obviously trying to make a decision on what your next step was. I watched the cashier rang your purchases up, and how you hurriedly threw the pack of gum onto the belt before she finished.
I watched, with a pit in the bottom of my stomach, as the cashier told you your total and you realized you didn't have enough money. I watched your eyes go from excited to panicked, and I almost missed your murmur of "I'm 4.00 short..."
I watched as the cashier gave you a look and said, "Well, you're going to have to put something back."
I watched your lip tremble, and your eyes well up with tears. In that moment, I didn't just see you. I saw every young boy in this world that had ever meant something to me. I knew, at that very second, that I couldn't let that lip tremble any longer.
I said to the cashier, handing her a $10 bill.
"I've got this."
I then knelt down next to you, and smiled.
"Get yourself another pack of gum, and something else you might like. There's some extra money left over."
I watched as your eyes went from panicked, to happy, to confused but hopeful.
"Are you sure you want me to have your money miss?"
My heart melted at your manners.
"You can call me Olivia, and of course, there's no one I would rather give it to." I meant that, too.
I watched your face break into a smile, and the pit in my stomach was gone. I can still hear your squeal of "thank you so much" as you scrambled to get yourself a candy bar and made your way to the exit.
I didn't expect you to be waiting for me when I was done paying. I saw you by the exit, and when our eyes met, you came over to me.
"Miss-" you said, stopping yourself, then speaking again,
I looked down at you, not sure what you were going to say.
Your eyes searched mine intently, and you began.
"I wanted to say thank you for paying for my gum and candy bar. My mom and I live by ourselves and I stayed home from school today because she didn't feel good. I didn't want to leave her alone. She's waiting for me in the car so I have to go, but I wanted to say thanks. I wouldn't have been able to have gum without you- you're pretty cool".
At the last sentence, I was barely holding it together. Tears were threatening to fall in awe of the politeness and genuine appreciation that you possessed for the smallest act.
Swallowing the lump in my throat, I replied to you,
"No problem, bud. I hope your mom feels better. Have a great rest of your day".
I watched as you nodded, grinned, and walked towards your mother's car. I watched as you gave me a small wave as you opened the car door. I watched as your mother asked you a question, and how you pointed at me and she softly smiled. I watched you pull away, and I got into my car, unable to hold the tears in any longer.
They came out slowly at first, but then they turned into full on sobs. I cried not for me, but for you. I cried because I realized that I hadn't asked you your name. I cried because it dawned on me that I would never know the place you called home, or the circumstances surrounding you. I cried because I knew that I would never know where you ended up in life, if you were going to be okay. I cried for the look of desperation in your eyes that no child should have. I cried for the "man of the house" role that you most likely have at far too young. I cried because I have cousins your age who would never have to worry about affording a pack of gum. I cried because I knew that for a moment, I helped you to worry a little less... and although that is reassuring in itself, I knew in the bottom of my heart that your days of worrying were far from over.
Little boy in Target, I hope you have an amazing life. I hope you get good grades, find true friends, and make good decisions. I hope your mom can provide for you, and that you are able to go and fulfill your dreams, whether they be to go to college or learn a trade.
I hope, from the bottom of my heart, that life treats you well. I hope that if someone ever gives you trouble or if this world treats you with unkindness, you remember me and that there are good people in this life... and those good people, they will find you.
Although I never got to know your name, I'll never forget you. I'll never forget that big smile, and the way you thanked me. I'll never forget the small wave you gave me as you got into the car. I'll never forget the joy you gave me just by knowing that I made your day a little better.
Thank you for giving me a new perspective on life, one that I will hold with me forever.
I wish you all of the best, today, tomorrow, and always.