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Good Samaritan’s kindness caught me off-guard

By Ernie Williamson

The Bulletin


I was standing at the counter in my pharmacy waiting for the credit card reader to authorize payment on my medication purchases.  


Nothing happened. Then a pharmacy employee told me the bank had declined to authorize payment.


I told the clerk there must be some mistake. I knew my credit should be fine. This had never happened before. Let’s try it again, I said.


Again nothing.


With a line forming behind me, I was humiliated and embarrassed at having a public discussion about my finances, particularly since I was certain it was the bank’s fault.


I fumbled through my wallet looking for Plan B: My debit card.  


Before I could find it, a stranger holding a credit card came up from behind. I thought he was going to test the reader with his card.


I was wrong.  He was paying for my meds.


This Good Samaritan paid for the prescriptions without even knowing the total amount due, a risky move given today’s drug prices.


I told him he did not need to pay for my prescriptions. I wondered if my wheelchair was a factor in why he helped out.  I was curious but did not say anything.


I told him I would just use my debit card. He said it was too late, the purchase with his card was already done.


I was grateful for the Good Samaritan’s help and thanked him several times.


But I was also frazzled about having my purchase publicly declined. After thanking him again, I quickly headed for the exit.


Driving home, I had two things on my mind. What was the problem with the credit card? And why did I feel badly about how I handled the situation at the pharmacy?


A call to the bank quickly answered the first question.


It was our fault. We had accidentally missed a payment and were past due $46. That explained the problem, but as someone who has used the same bank and credit card company without incident for most of my adult life, it seems a rather paltry amount to trigger such a drastic action.


Replaying the action with the Good Samaritan, I feel my reaction at the pharmacy was inadequate. Saying thanks just was not enough.


There were things I could have done. I could have gotten his name and phone number so I could repay him later. Or I could have insisted that the pharmacy cancel the kind stranger’s card and used my debit card.


But it is too late for that.


So, after wrestling for a couple days about how to repay the stranger, I decided I would borrow an idea from a popular book and movie:  I will pay it forward.


Simply defined, paying it forward is when someone does something kind for you, instead of paying that person back directly, you pass it on to another person.


Adherents believe pay-it-forward principles make our communities better places.


 Who knows? Maybe the Good Samaritan was paying it forward.


So, to the stranger who paid for my prescriptions, I want you to know that it is my turn.


I will pass your kindness forward.


(Contact Ernie at williamsonernie@gmail.com. Or, send letters in care of The Bulletin, P.O. Box 2426, Angleton, TX. 77516). 

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