It had been a string of impossibly bad days that had taken all her strength to get through.
But now, seeing the two men close in, and her being the obvious target, the last of her willpower slipped away. “Just let it be over,” she thought. As they caught up, one opened his mouth. The words that came out made no sense.
Agnes pulled up to the gas station, already feeling the anxiety set in. What should have been a simple task, now felt monumental; nearly impossible.
She opened the door and zipped up her jacket against the chilly October breeze. Her focus was so much on the pump that she didn’t even notice a white van pull right up beside her.
She gently squeezed the lever in her freezing hands. Keeping the heat off gave better gas mileage.
As she neared the five-dollar mark, she eased up. Out of the corner of her eye, she spotted a happy couple strolling down the sidewalk. The distraction not only made her heart sink, but it was also about to cost her extra.
The digits rolled past her budget. Agnes stared at the numbers in panic.
She slumped against her car and closed her eyes as she fought back tears. She couldn’t break down. Not now. The faint clink of coins at the bottom of her bag gave her hope. The world came back into focus … and that’s when she noticed them.
The white van was still there. A man in a dark purple hoodie seemed to be stealing glances at her.
The other man in the van looked over his phone in her direction. She kept an eye on them as she went to pay. They were indeed watching her. As if that wasn’t enough, a humiliating experience was waiting for her inside.
The register beeped with her gas total. The people behind her sighed as Agnes pulled out a bag of pennies and started grouping them on the counter.
The rest came from rummaging around in her purse. The week had already been the worst of her life, but what they whispered made it so much harder.
Agnes’ cheeks went red and she held back the desire to bawl as she heard, “You’ve got to be joking!” and “Seriously?!”
At least the cashier waited patiently. After taking a few coins from the “leave a penny” tray, the charge was covered. She spun around, ready to leave as fast as she could. Right in front of her were the same two men – still staring.
Her wobbly legs wouldn’t move fast enough. The exit felt so far away.
Their obvious whispers were probably like the rest of the customers – harsh and impatient. All she wanted to do was get back home and crawl under the covers. It felt like her heart was going to beat out of her chest. The men stepped out of the store.
As if things couldn’t get any worse, the one with the camera was pointing it right at her.
They walk directly towards her. Agnes fumbled for her keys and tried to pick up the pace. But they were younger, faster, and the distance between them was closing.
There was no question in her mind. Something bad was about to happen. After all, bad luck and horrible moments were the staple of her recent days.
Part of her wanted to just give up and let whatever was about to happen … just happen. The one in the hoodie caught up and looked right at her.
“Excuse me, ma’am,” he said, with a small smile. “Would you come with us?” She stared back in confusion.
“Don’t worry,” he added with a light chuckle. “Nothing bad.” The event now turned to a hazy string of moments she didn’t quite understand. Still, she found herself going towards their vehicle.
He jumped into the van, rummaged around in a bag, and then jumped back out. In his hand were green and white slips of paper.
The stack of twenties fluttered in the cold wind as he stepped in close and gave her a sympathetic look. He reached out.
“They’re for you,” he said. That was it. The frail wall that was holding back the bulk of her emotions, cracked and crumbled away.
The rest of the tears flowed out without mercy. Her body wouldn’t move. Her hands wouldn’t take the gift. “It’s not illegal. We’re comedians,” he added. “You don’t understand,” she said.
She lowered her head and sobbed. “My husband just died a week ago. We weren’t like this before. I didn’t ask nobody for nothing. I didn’t even ask you.”
The revelation clearly affected the men. Tears formed in their eyes and one reached out to hug her. But there was more to come.
The man, Carlos Davis, was a comedian who had also known hard times. But, through a huge stroke of luck, and plenty of talent, he was discovered by a famous rapper who asked him to open for him on tour.
Carlos had not only noticed Agnes’ depressed state, but he remembered what it was like to struggle. He also knew one more important thing.
Not everyone found the breaks in life that made things easier.
People with success or fortune should try to help others. In his case, it was with laughter. But today it was with tears and a small gesture of money. She broke down further as he added another heartfelt sentiment.
“We got love for you. That’s for you,” said Carlos as he handed her the gift. She felt his warm hands over her icy ones.
“How did you guys…?” It was impossible to form the flood of emotions into coherent words. The men might not have known her tragedy, but he explained what they had seen.
“He told me you were paying for your gas with pennies, so I had to show love,” explained Carlos. “It’s only right, we gotta take care of each other.”
She stared at the money, feeling the corner of her mouth turn up in the first, weak, smile she had had in days. It wasn’t just the death of her husband that had destroyed her world.
The funeral expenses had drained what little money she had left.
Everyone wanted her to save money and take the most cost-efficient option to put her husband to rest. But she just couldn’t do that to the love of her life. That’s why she had to pay for gas with pennies. “How do I thank you or repay you?” she asked.
“You don’t have to, just pay it forward,” said Carlos’ friend. “That’s for you, ma’am,” added Carlos.
She had been close to losing her faith in everything, but this one moment … restored it all. It was a tiny light in her miserable darkness. She held it tight as they said goodbye and parted ways.