Mrs Gibbs was having the hardest week of her life when a kind acquaintance noticed her and eased her suffering.
An old woman with messy hair and a tattered headscarf began to attract the shop manager’s attention. Mrs Gibbs had a habit of going round the shop several times, taking things off the shelf, examining them and putting them back.
But it was the slowest day of the week, and on that day Mrs Gibbs’ face was the face the shop manager saw from the beginning of his shift until lunchtime.
In fact, Mrs Gibbs sometimes ran out of food at lunchtime, and that was exactly what happened that day.
Usually she could buy some potatoes, fruit or at least a loaf of the cheapest bread. But today was a particularly difficult day. It was the last week of the month, and Mrs Gibbs had been to every grocery shop in the area, looking for something she could buy with the little money she had.
“If it wasn’t for a broken pipe that almost flooded the kitchen, I could have saved on repairs and had a hearty meal today,” she thought.
This was the third month in a row that her paltry pension was running out, leaving her scrambling for scraps for a whole week.
Madam! Is there anything I can do for you?” – he asked Mrs Gibbs.
The unexpected question brought her back to reality. On reflection, she could not remember when she had sat on the stool in the food court.
“Nothing, son. I just… dropped in for a visit.”
Noticing the slight suspicion in the shop manager’s eyes, Mrs. Gibbs picked up the folded grocery bag. She left the shop as quickly as she could.
It was a long walk back and the hot sun did not help her. She dragged her feet along the road, trying to keep the dangling sole of her right shoe from falling off altogether.
There were cafés and juice bars along the way. “At least one of them would be happy to give me a bottle of water and a sandwich,” she thought. But Mrs Gibbs’ Achilles’ heel was that she could never convince herself to ask for the help she needed.
Suppressing her thirst and ignoring her rumbling stomach for thirty minutes, Mrs Gibbs finally saw her house at the end of the road.
It was a small house, once painted blue and white, with a crumbling roof, which would be her main reason for expenses next month.
Fido, the neighbour’s dog, usually ran towards her at this time, but he was nowhere to be seen that day. Instead, she saw something shocking: the neighbour, Fido’s owner, slipped out of his house and ran towards her house.
“Hey, hey,” Mrs Gibbs ran up to the man. At that moment the sole of her shoe came off, stopping her in her tracks.
“Isn’t that Charlie? What was he doing on my porch? ”
She didn’t want to believe it because Charlie seemed like a good person to her. He struggled to find a steady job supporting his pregnant wife and three children in his hometown. And he was always aloof, but kind to Mrs. Gibbs.
Only now has it come to her. All these reasons were enough for Charlie to start stealing!
When Mrs. Gibbs finally reached her door, she realized how wrong she was. The old woman found a bag of vegetables, a box of canned food, rolls wrapped in newspaper, and three bottles of fruit juice in different flavors.
She felt relieved, but was stunned by the food neatly laid out in front of her door. “That’s enough for me for a week,” she thought.
“Charlie? Charlie! I know you can hear me. Come out!” shouted Mrs. Gibbs, trying to peer through the tall bushes that served as a fence between the houses.
“Come out or I’ll call Gloria!” – impatience and anger sounded in Mrs. Gibbs’ voice.
Charlie moved forward quietly, avoiding looking into his neighbor’s eyes.
“Maybe I crossed the line. What if I notice Mrs. Gibbs searching for something in the grocery store? She doesn’t even know I’m working there now. Knowing her, she would be ashamed if I saw her suffering.”
“How are you today, Mrs. Gibbs?” asked Charlie, and immediately regretted his question.
“Why did you do that?” said Mrs. Gibbs, pointing to the food in front of her door.
It took Charlie a moment to find the words. “I saw you at the grocery store. I knew you were too proud to ask for help. And I thought an anonymous donation was the only way to help you.”
“You should have done it differently, don’t you think so?” asked Mrs. Gibbs in a completely different tone.
Charlie was at first shocked by the sudden change in his neighbor’s voice, but he quickly joined in the laughter.
The next day, Charlie was helping a customer at a grocery store when he was unexpectedly called to a meeting with a store manager.
He panicked as he walked to the manager’s office. “I can’t afford to lose that job either.”
To his surprise, the store manager was in a good mood and talking to an elderly woman: it was Mrs. Gibbs.
“So, Mrs. Gibbs told me that yesterday you took expired and rejected products from the store.” The store manager wasn’t laughing anymore.
“I’m sorry … It’s true. I brought her some expired cans of beans and bottles of juice. I thought she was struggling and needed help.”
“Well, you should have thought about the fact that your actions will have more serious consequences,” the manager said in a stern voice. “Now, as a result of your actions, two things will happen.”
At this point, Charlie struggled with the urge to run away and never look back. What was he going to say to his wife? Where was he going to find another job?
“Take this first,” the boss handed Charlie an envelope.
“And before you look at what’s in the envelope, follow me. You too, Madam.”
The trio headed to the baking department. Charlie immersed himself in his thoughts and returned to reality when his manager coughed loudly.
Then he saw it. Next to the bread department was a large cabinet with vegetables, fruits, cereals, bread and much more. The inscription on the cabinet read: “Charity shelf. Choose everything for free.”
Charlie was thrilled with the new initiative and was surprised to see his boss smiling again.
Now he was scratching his head over what was in the envelope.
The letter read: “For showing kindness and initiative, which are an important component of leadership, I promote you to assistant store manager. That means you get an office and a higher salary.”
“Have you forgotten anything, young man?” mrs. Gibbs elbowed the manager.
“Oh yeah. And now you can bring your wife and children. You can thank Mrs. Gibbs for talking to me for a long time until I agreed.”
Charlie was too happy to remember that Mrs. Gibbs doesn’t like hugs. He kissed her and managed to whisper “thank you” before crying with joy.