Today William and I sold Boy Scout Fair Coupon Books at the Kroger at Echo Lane and I-10. For a couple of hours in the frigid afternoon air, we greeted a steady flow of shoppers from all walks of life. One by one we asked them if they would be interested in buying a coupon book to support the Boy Scouts of America. The coupon book is actually a good deal--for $10 you get $400 worth of coupons to Kroger, Luby’s, McDonalds, James Coney Island, and several other Houston businesses. The three Scouts working this particular Kroger were quite anxious to tell the passersby that the coupon for free Blue Bell ice cream could be used immediately!
At some point during our afternoon sales shift from 2:00 to 4:00, we had a nice woman (though she bordered on obnoxious) donate $50 to William! She said she wasn't from Houston, but wanted to help the Boy Scouts. As she rambled incessantly about Boy Scouts, Kansas, and fast food, we thanked her for her generosity.
William was a coupon-book-selling machine. It didn’t matter who walked into the store--moms, dads, grandparents, college students, the security guard, the cashier on her smoke break...even the acne-faced teenager wearing his blue Kroger vest gathering the shopping carts from the parking lot--everyone was given an opportunity to buy $400 worth of coupons for $10! And it didn’t matter if William asked the person when they walked into the store...he asked them again when they walked out--just in case they wanted to buy a second coupon book!
William approached one particular older woman who was wearing a faded and tattered sweatsuit. A lace on her once-white shoes was broken. It appeared her green and orange wool socks had been in the washing machine many times.
"Excuse me?” William’s little voice called out her. “Would you like to support the Boy Scouts by buying a coupon book for $10? It has free ice cream!”
Her apologetic eyes met mine. I wanted to look away. I didn’t. I expected more of what I’d heard many times earlier, ‘Not right now.’
I even had my standard response ready, ‘That’s OK, have a great day!’
In a voice spoken soft enough for only me to hear, she said, “I’m sorry; I cannot afford $10.”
I watched her as she dug through her well-aged handbag. Seconds later, her age-spotted hand emerged from the bag clinching a one-dollar bill and various scraps of paper.
“Do you accept donations? Would it be all right if I donated a dollar?”
As I took the coupon book from William and slipped it into one of the plastic Kroger bags in her cart, I said, “That’s very kind of you, but you keep that dollar. And you keep this coupon book too.”
My hand had not even released the coupon book before tears were visible on her pale cheeks. The appreciative smile on her face said everything her voice could not. As she looked down at William, he smiled and said, “There’s a coupon for free ice cream in there too!”