September 14, 2011 by rebelwithalabelmaker
I was in the grocery store, in line behind a family who was clearly new to Canada. Neither parent spoke very good English, and you could tell it had been a struggle for them to get themselves and their small kids to the grocery store, through the aisles, and to the checkout. Just as the end was in sight, babies shrieking and groceries loaded, their bank card was declined. The husband was stunned. Trying desperately to figure out the problem (in a foreign language) he moved back and forth between the bank machine, the payphone, and his shrieking kids and exhausted wife. I know only too well how hard it can be to keep the kitchen stocked with small kids–even in my home country. Both parents looked liked they were about to burst into tears at the prospect of giving up on all the groceries they'd just spent so much energy picking out and getting to the checkout. On an impulse, I paid for the groceries, and then wrote down my address.
"When you get it figured out, you can drop off money later. No problem." I said.
"I will pay." he assured me repeatedly (not to jump ahead, but he returned the money within a matter of hours). He tried to show me his bank statements and explain the problem, but the language barrier was too great. "I will pay." he kept saying. I tried to reassure them that I trusted them, but they were both clearly searching for a way to prove that they would return the money. Finally, as they were leaving, still repeating "I will pay" a light dawned on the wife's face. She reached into her purse, and with great reverence pulled out a small card, which she pressed into the palm of my hand. It was clear from her expression that she knew she'd finally found something valuable enough to give me. She gestured to my hand as if to say "Keep this until we come find you. Now you know for certain we will bring you the money, because we could never risk losing this."
It was her son's shiny new Canadian Health Card.