Tuesday, November 15, 2022

The Greatest Heist in History

 “But I don’t have enough money right now,” the man said into his cellphone. 

Mike and I looked at each other. We didn’t mean to eavesdrop, but his voice carried over the aisle. 

“He’s the tall man who walked by us earlier and said good morning?” I whispered. “That sounds like his voice?”

“I think so.” Mike nodded.

We’d gone to The Dollar Store to see their holiday selection—which is actually pretty good this year. Yet today, we found so much more than wreathes and tinsel…

“I can pay you a hundred right now, but that’s all I can pay today. I’ll have the rest in two days. Please don’t turn off our power.” His voice went up an octave, frantic. “We have a baby. We need the power to stay on.” 

I couldn’t stand knowing someone experienced that. I think we’ve all been in a similar situation, barely making ends meet. It’s terrible, but for some reason hearing that today at The Dollar Store nearly tore me apart.

“We have to do something,” I whispered.

“I think so too. But we don’t want to make him feel bad,” Mike said. “That could be embarrassing if we just hand him money.”

I remembered seeing the guy shopping a few minutes before. He’d appeared so meticulous, weighing each choice and only getting essentials like baby supplies and toiletries. 

“I have an idea!” I giggled with excitement. “This’ll be like pulling off THE GREATEST HEIST OF ALL TIME! I’m so excited.”

“Um…okay?” Mike appeared to be bracing himself for impact. “Are we helping or robbing this guy?”

“Helping!” I rummaged through my purse and found quite a bit of cash. “I saved this to do something fun during cancer treatments in Utah. But what’s more fun than a heist?! This’ll be perfect.”

Sure the cash wouldn’t be much to a rich person, but it might help the guy keep his power on. “I’m gonna pass him,” I whispered, “and then—like a badass—I’ll drop this cash on the ground behind him. After that, you’ll saunter—like you do—and say, ‘Oh, no…. Sir! You dropped some cash.’ But act super surprised. Okay?”

“Sure. But—“

And before Mike could back out, I went down the aisle and passed the man as he continued pleading over the phone with the power company. The man forced a smile onto his face when he spotted me limping near him, and then he turned away, whispering into the phone.

Perfect! I could drop the money and get out without anyone knowing. Bwa-ha-ha!

In that moment, like the star of “Oceans 11,” I threw the cash RIGHT behind the man. Yes! But he seemed suspicious of my lingering presence, so I continued away as fast as I could, then went and hid behind the end of another aisle. 

All right, Mike—it’s your turn. I willed him to do something. Anything. But where was Mike? Finally, waiting longer than a virgin in the 16th century, Mike entered the main aisle at 12 o’clock, looking genuinely confused. That’s when I realized that the money had somehow partially slid under a display. 

I can be an idiot! Plus, why is it so damn hard to be kind?! No wonder people don’t do it more often. 

“There,” I mouthed, pointing and doing my own version of sign language. But Mike’s lip- and mind-reading skills aren’t strong. “There,” I mouthed in slow motion, my mouth staying in a huge “O” before cinching together in agony. I did a butterfly signal that swooped toward the ground and under something. 

Mike played it cool and ignored me completely—what a legend. And just as the unfortunate stranger ended his call and turned around, Mike seized the cash. 

Thank, Jehoshaphat!

“Oh, hey…weird. Looks like you dropped some cash, man.” And he said it with this hilarious, amazing tone in his voice that would disarm anyone.

That. That is why I love the man. A friend told me, “You have to look out for the funny ones.” One minute you’re laughing the next you’ve been married for years!

Anyway, the tall guy looked completely confounded. “Wait. No…What?”  I continued peeking, so giddy.

“You did. You dropped it,” Mike said. “Anyway, here you go.” Then he handed the man the cash, and the man’s eyes filled with tears. 

“Oh, yeah. I guess,” he said as if suspecting our plot, “that must be mine. I’m so grateful it is,” he said to Mike as he walked away.

Mike and I left the store, and my heart felt completely filled to the brim. We can’t give a lot, but when we have opportunities to do it, moments like that make life shine so bright. 

I remembered a talk I’d heard from one of my Jewish friends. She explained how everyone should give, even if they’re sick or poor—they have something to offer someone. After the enormously gracious acts of kindness we’ve seen over the past two years during my fight against cancer, it felt so nice to do something for someone else.

“What do you give us on a scale from one to ten?” I asked Mike. “How smooth were we?”

“I mean, I don’t think we’re gonna successfully rob a bank or anything anytime soon.” 

I broke out laughing. “We weren’t that bad!”

“Well,” Mike said, “considering we almost lost the money, and you were doing gang signs from across the store...”

I snorted. “Honestly, I give you a ten. And me a two because I probably looked so silly smiling and throwing cash almost at him.” Bam!

“You get a nine. I didn’t even see you drop the money. Now that was smooth!” Mike said.

I smiled, and snuggled into my big, strong man. “Well, thank you! You make life so good.”

“You do,” he said.

And despite sickness and pain, people who are struggling, and all the hard things this world can hold, everything felt bright. We helped lighten someone’s load, and in the process, we made the day exceptional for ourselves as well. I’ll never forget almost losing some cash at The Dollar Store—the greatest heist in history!

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