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A Sad View Into Making Ends Meet

no money povertyIt is story time again with Grayson, so sit back, relax, and enjoy your favorite beverage.  I have a little story that I want to tell.

I was out at the grocery store this week to get our regular weekly perishables, and it was just another normal shopping trip.  Comparing prices, checking fruits, and finding sales is my usual routine when in the grocery store.  Since I wasn’t going in for just one item, I knew I would be in there for some time to get all that was necessary.

People Watching

As I went into the checkout lane, I knew I would have to wait to complete my shopping trip.  Our local store has the slowest checkout lanes I have ever encountered.  It is truly sad, but it is so close to the house that I will sacrifice the wait time.  When I am waiting in the checkout, I like to people watch.  I do this pretty much anywhere I go, but the grocery store is a special place.

When you people watch at the grocery store, you find out what type of foods people eat, how much they pay for groceries, how they use coupons, and how they pay.  It is a treasure-trove of financial information just running around you.  This is the fun part when in the grocery store, especially for a personal finance blogger.

This trip was a little different.  As I sat in the checkout lane, calculating my overall cost (I like to do this to see how close I get to the final bill), I noticed something going on with the gentleman in front of me.

He was checking out with his child and he was buying all good foods.  You know, fresh vegetables, fruits, and just all around good food. You don’t see that much at our grocery store, so this was refreshing.  As the employee finished checking him out and gave him the total, I noticed a reaction on the man’s face.

He didn’t have enough money!

I don’t know the man’s situation, but I could tell that his child had not had enough to eat.  He was lively, but just looked a little underfed.   While I normally wouldn’t look twice, this situation struck a nerve with me.  This man was trying to buy good, healthy food for him and his son, but couldn’t afford it.

To get to the point where he could afford it, he had to take away bags of dried beans.  Now, if you don’t know, you can do a lot of things with dried beans.  They are a great source of energy and can last a long time.  They are awesome when you are on a budget, but this man couldn’t afford them.  I was irritated with this situation.

The people in my area are usually at the poverty level, though I am not.  We bought in the area because we could easily afford the house, but didn’t do a good enough job vetting the area and that is why I am trying to sell the house.  There are many nice people that live around the area, but not in our neighborhood.  Oh well.

Again, as I noted, I don’t know this man’s situation.  He could just be really bad with money, but he seemed like a generally nice man.  He asked politely to use my rewards card and I happily obliged.  He was well spoken and treated others in line with the utmost respect. He also treated his son very well.  That being said, the man couldn’t even afford beans.

I Decided Something

Since I was up in line after this man, I decided to do something that I would almost never do.  As the man walked out of the grocery store, I decided to buy the beans that he had the cashier take off his bill and give them back to the man.  I had to run out of the store to catch the man, but he was very happy that he got the beans.  I told him that I didn’t know of his situation, but no one should have to give up quality food.  I am not writing this to toot my own horn, but more of showing the true view of poverty.  There should be no cases where people cannot afford to buy dried beans.  I know it is more rampant around the country, but it truly frustrates me.

There are many people out there that are just struggling to make it.  They want to do things better for themselves, but might not have the ability to do so.  I think sometimes we look at those less fortunate and just assume that they haven’t worked hard enough.  This grocery store lesson taught me that we can’t judge people based on what we witness.  This man really wanted to provide good nutritious meals for himself and his son.  That is responsible in my book.

What do you think of this situation?  What would you do if you were in the checkout lane with this man?

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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About the Author Grayson Bell

I'm a business owner, blogger, father, and husband. I used credit cards too much and found myself in over $75,000 in debt ($50,000 in just credit cards). I paid it off, started this blog, and my financial life has changed. I now talk about fighting debt and growing wealth here. I run a WordPress maintenance and support company, along with another blog, Eyes on the Dollar, which is another great personal finance blog.

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82 comments
Free Money Minute says June 7

Nice job Grayson! I would like to think I would have done the same thing. We need more people like you around. Loved the story.

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J says June 7

You are such an incredibly awesome guy!

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DC @ Young Adult Money says June 7

Good for you! Seriously, kudos for helping someone else out who obviously really needed it. I hope I would do the same thing.

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Matt Becker says June 7

If I’m being honest, I probably wouldn’t have gone to the lengths you did, which is a little sad. It’s small instances of one person helping another that can make our communities so great. I’m sure he was very appreciative and hopefully you’ve inspired him and your readers to pay it forward.

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Catherine says June 7

We had the exact same situation happen about 2 weeks ago. I didn’t notice the situation until a few mins into it since I was holding baby but my husband watched a man decide he couldn’t afgord bananas so without hesitation added them to our bill and ran after him in the parking lot while I finished in the store. I was a proud wife. I didn’t notive what was going on unit I saw him running outside then connected the dots. The cashier was pretty impressed too, said it restored some of her faith in humanity.

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    Grayson says June 10

    Your husband did a good thing. I am very vigilant when I am out shopping, so I notice a lot of things going on around me.

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Holly@ClubThrifty says June 7

That’s sweet, Grayson. I also have a bleeding heart for situations like those…..especially when kids are involved. It’s sad to see people go without.

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    Grayson says June 10

    I agree with you there Holly. As a parent now, my heart strings get pulled a little more.

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Anne @ Unique Gifter says June 7

Glad to hear that you sprung for the beans. Like you said, it’s quite sad when dried beans are what gets cut, as they’re one of the cheapest proteins out there.
I have never been in the situation where someone in front of me couldn’t pay, usually only someone whose forgotten their wallet (ahem, like me, last week, sprinting to the car to get it). Reminds me of a story I once heard that makes me happy. At Costco or similar, a lady had a huge cart full of stuff, clearly shopping for a camp or a huge family or something. A guy only had 4 or 5 little things, so she let him go in front. The store had a promotion, where the thousandth customer at the till had a flashing light go off and they won their whole order. As the guy stepped up, the light went off. Without skipping a beat, he turned back to the lady who let him go in front and said, “well honey, it looks like our lucky day.” Simple on the spot thinking certainly paid forward, for her act of letting him go first, which could have cost her thousands. 🙂

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    Grayson says June 10

    Nice story Anne. It is great to see others being kind and having respect for one another.

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eemusings says June 7

I’ve often heard Americans relate stories like these, but I’ve never seen this myself firsthand here in NZ. It’s a great thing you did; I’d hope I would do the same.

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Jordann @ My Alternate Life says June 7

Wow that is awesome of you! I live in a fairly poor area too (because of the cheap housing) and the typical contents of grocery carts include more carbs and sugar than fresh veggies and grains. If I was in this situation, I would probably be moved to do the same thing!

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    Grayson says June 10

    Yeah, that is usually the same here. I don’t usually do anything, but this man was working hard to provide good food.

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Brian @ Luke1428 says June 7

You demonstrated the essence of why we are put on this earth…to care for our fellow man. Well done!

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John S @ Frugal Rules says June 7

That’s awesome you did that Grayson and I hope that I would do the same. I know it can be easy to just assume that people are in the situation they are because they did something foolish and that is definitely not the case. The sad thing is that so many children are impacted by poverty and there is nothing they can do about that. It’s definitely something that more attention needs to be paid to.

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    Grayson says June 10

    I have been guilty of assuming before and I have found that my assumptions are rarely correct. I am working hard not to do it anymore.

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Girl Meets Debt says June 7

Wow. Now this is a true feel good Friday story! 🙂 my favourite blog post in a long time! You did a great thing Grayson. Good karma will come back to you 🙂

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Michelle says June 7

That is very very nice of you. I love this story. Even though the cost was probably low, it probably meant the world to him. I would have done the same!

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    Grayson says June 10

    There are little things that we can all do for each other. This was one of them.

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jefferson @ SeeDebtRun says June 7

This EXACT situation has happened to both Michelle and I in the last month, and both times, the person who couldn’t pay– had children with them. Totally heartbreaking. Sadly, both times we offered to pay for them, and both times they flat out refused. Too much pride, I assume. After they left, the checker explained that this happens all the time, and that folks who are short, rarely let others help.

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    Grayson says June 10

    I have come across some that have refused. I figured if he refused, then I would just take the beans because I could use them.

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E.M. says June 7

This put a smile on my face! That was so nice of you. Your actions let the story have a happy ending instead of a sad one – it’s great how good deeds have that kind of power. If I found myself in that situation I would definitely do the same thing.

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    Grayson says June 10

    I am glad my story could put a smile on your face. Glad to hear that you would do the same.

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anna says June 7

That was very kind of you, Grayson!! This made my day to hear there’s still folks like you around 🙂

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Kendal @ HassleFreeSaver says June 7

Touching post, Grayson. I would have done the same for this man. I live in a middle-class area and so this is not something I’ve witnessed before, but I’d like to think I would respond as you did if the situation presented itself. Everyone goes through hard times and you’re absolutely right — we never know what the details are. I think it’s great you shared this story and hope it serves as inspiration for others.

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    Grayson says June 10

    Glad to hear you would do the same thing Kendal. Thanks for your kind words.

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krantcents says June 7

I think it is a nice gesture! When I owned my restaurant, I would help out people in the area with food. I never gave money because I was concerned they may use it for the wrong things and they would still be hungry.

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    Grayson says June 10

    That is very kind of you. I have found that material items are better than cash.

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Jana @ Daily Money Shot says June 7

I’d like to say that I’d offer to help but if I’m being honest, I don’t know that I would. People get really uncomfortable and easily offended with that stuff and I don’t want to anger anyone, particularly not for something that has good intentions,

As far as assuming a kid is underfed, please don’t do that. A few of my daughter’s friends are extremely skinny and I know they eat. A lot. I’ve seen them do it. Some kids are just small, and their parents get very offended if you think that the reason the kid is small is due to improper nutrition. And if you do think it, just don’t say anything.

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    Grayson says June 7

    I appreciate your honesty Jana. You are right about assuming the kid was underfed, but this one was pretty easy to tell that he was. There is a big difference between skinny and malnourished. I have seen both, but I didn’t say anything to the man. I kept that observation to myself.

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Shannon @ The Heavy Purse says June 7

I’m glad you bought him the beans; I would have done the same thing too. We don’t know his story but he was trying to do the right thing and buy good food for his family. We’ve all make mistakes and sometimes those mistakes have put us in a precarious financial situation. Your act of kindness made his day and put more food in his son’s belly.

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    Grayson says June 10

    Thanks Shannon. I don’t know this man’s situation, but if he is working hard to buy good food, then I don’t mind pitching in.

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Joshua Rodriguez says June 7

I think it’s awesome what you did! I would have done the same thing. If only there were more people that felt the same!

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    Grayson says June 10

    Our world would be a better place if we all helped out more.

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Jake @ Common Cents Wealth says June 7

Nice work, Grayson! That’s a great story and I’m sure the guy appreciated it. I don’t normally do random acts of kindness, but I should make a habit of it. There are so many people out there who need help. I may think that I need the money, but there are people who need it much more than I do. Good job.

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    Grayson says June 10

    You never know who’s life you can affect with random acts of kindness. I try to do them, but need to do more.

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Khaleef @ Faithful With a Few says June 7

People watching is one of our favorite events! 🙂

I think this was a very nice thing to do. As you said, you don’t know his situation, but you do know that he had a need that you were able to meet.

It is sad when healthy food has to be sacrificed because of a financial situation. Eating in an unhealthy manner can lead to so many other problems, which usually have negative financial consequences.

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    Grayson says June 10

    You are so correct. Eating bad food only ends to bad things. People should have access to great, healthy food.

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Laurie says June 7

Grayson, I can just tell by the story that the man was a humble, caring man that just wanted to feed his kid. And dried beans are no luxury, that’s for sure. You and I are a lot alike – I love to people watch too and observe people’s different habits and such, and so many people, even at the poverty level, buy nothing but crap food. To watch this man trying to provide good food for his kid and then not be able to afford it must’ve been heart-wrenching. And by the way, I think it’s super cool that you went the extra mile and chased him down to give him the beans. As a parent who is on a super tight budget, I can promise you that you made that guy’s week. Well done, my friend. 🙂

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    Grayson says June 10

    You and I are very much alike Laurie. I appreciate your very kind words.

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LifeorDebt says June 7

We see that frequently where we live– it is sad. I’ve not once done what you did– too caught up in my own little life to think to take action. Next time, maybe, I’ll take action. Thanks for the inspiration!

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Canadian Budget Binder says June 7

No questions asked, I would have done the same thing. I’ve given money at the cash before if someone is short. When it comes to food there’s something that strikes a chord with me. I often give out any extra coupons I might has as well if I see someone with that product in their cart, just to help them save a buck. There was no reason to know his situation all you did know is that he ran short of cash and you pitched in. For all you know he is a millionaire who forgot his wallet or money on the counter that was for groceries. Good deeds should be done regardless of what we think others are going through. Sometimes just talking to someone will make their day and yes no one should have to go hungry not even for a basic frugal staple, like beans. Well done mate…..

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    Grayson says June 10

    Thanks Mr. CBB. I knew that you would do the same thing. You are a good man, my friend.

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Greg@Thriftgenuity says June 7

Well done. I especially like that you waited to do it after he was on his way out so it was more discreet than while he was in line. It is definitely tough to see and especially when the person is trying to do the right things. It’s situations like this that make you remember how lucky we are.

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    Grayson says June 10

    It just worked out because there was one person in front of me buying one item, so I had to wait. I am glad that I have some decent running speed!

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Debt Blag says June 7

What a good thing to do.

I’ve found that its the rule more than the exception that you can’t judge a book by its cover.

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debtperception says June 7

Good for you, Grayson! That’s such a great story! I really like Anne’s story in her comment too!

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Jon @ MoneySmartGuides says June 7

I thought I was the only one that tries to guess the total of my bill haha!! On the serious side, I would have done the exact same thing.

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    Grayson says June 10

    I love doing that. It is a fun little exercise in mathematics.

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Kim@Eyesonthedollar says June 7

Usually my observations at the grocery are not that noble. I’ve seen this happen, but it’s usually something like Twizzlers or donuts that get put back. I can’t imagine how humiliating that much be to not have enough money. Good for you for doing the right thing!

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    Grayson says June 10

    I have seen when the sweets get put back, but I won’t put up money for those.

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Thomas @ Your Daily Finance says June 8

We need more people in this world like you Grayson!! I would have probably done the same only I would have just said give it to him but add it to my bill so I didnt risk the chance of missing him in the parking lot. Sorry about the neighborhood hopefully you are able to sell the home. Next time do a little more research. We didn’t get the home of our dreams but we really really like our neighborhood.

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    Grayson says June 10

    I have learned a lot about my home buying experience and I don’t plan on making that mistake again.

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thepotatohead says June 8

Nice job Grayson, always good to help out those in need. It truly is sad when it’s cheaper to buy a 2 liter of soda then a gallon of water, or that junk food is cheaper then produce. That’s how our society is leaning though, quick and easy processed foods. I sadly admit I eat them all the time. Need to work on cooking more fresh items and improving my diet.

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    Grayson says June 10

    You are so correct. Processed, crap food is cheaper and usually recommended when you are on food stamps. That is truly sad.

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KK @ Student Debt Survivor says June 8

I would have done the same exact thing. Good quality food should not be a luxury item that only the rich can afford. Good for that man for buying fruits and veggies and beans and not processed crap (which is cheaper, so unfortunately is often what people with less means buy).

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    Grayson says June 10

    Glad to hear you would do the same KK. I think the man was doing the right thing.

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Alex says June 8

Amazing job! It’s the little actions like this that I think have the biggest impact.

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CashRebel says June 8

Im always pleased when I see the person in front if me in line has good food, but ive never bought food for someone else. That truly is a tragedy when a family is trying and they just can’t quite afford the basic necessities. It makes you wonder about the countries distribution of wealth…

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    Grayson says June 10

    Our country’s distribution of wealth has a wide disparity. People have trouble buying good food when they are near poverty and they are the ones that need the good food most.

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Brent Pittman says June 8

Seems like your living situation is unique since I’m sure many of us reading this, myself included, live in a neighborhood with people similar to social economic situation (SES).

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    Grayson says June 10

    Yeah, I make more money than most people around me, but that doesn’t really matter to me. I get to see some things that other do not and I think that helps me grow.

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Pauline says June 9

That was very generous of you Grayson. I don’t know if I would even have noticed since I don’t look much around when shopping, I just try to get the job done asap. In France I often see beggars outside the supermarkets, and some are being given bread or a sandwich by people who just shopped. I even saw one throwing the bread, disappointed he didn’t get money. Thankfully we have food banks and heavily discounted stores if you are below poverty line, so you don’t go hungry if you can’t afford food.

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    Grayson says June 10

    I usually try to get the job done quickly, but when I am in line waiting, I get my people watching in and that is when I notice some things.

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    Jenny @ Frugal Guru Guide says June 13

    We have food banks and food stamps–there are still people who refuse charity. My parents qualified for WIC and food stamps when I was little, and we did not take them. I’ve qualified for food stamps several times as well and have not taken them, either.

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Jennifer @ Money Aches says June 13

That was very nice of you to do, you are very observant. I most likely wouldn’t have notice the kinds of food they were purchasing.

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Jenny @ Frugal Guru Guide says June 13

If he wasn’t using food stamps, then he had one of two problems, or both: 1) Not enough knowledge. He didn’t know how to really pinch a penny in the grocery store. 2) Not enough income. He was out of work or only working part time.

I would have bought the beans and then offered A) to teach him how to spend less and, B) some extra work at a decent rate–I have stuff around the house that ALWAYS needs to be done that someone can handle without any particular skill, and I have some money that I can use to pay a decent wage, at least for a while.

BTW, I’ve extended the second offer to multiple healthy panhandlers who claimed to be seeking work. None have ever taken me up on it even though the wages are better than they’d get with ANY unskilled labor position on a fulltime basis.

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    Grayson says June 13

    I don’t know his situation, nor did I need to know it. You would try to teach him a lesson over beans? You are already stepping over the line with just buying the food for him because some don’t like that. So, then you would teach him about money? I have to say that is really ballsy Jenny. I don’t think that would have gone over very well, especially not where my grocery store is located. I also wouldn’t have told him to work for me over something that ended up costing me about $5. It would cost me more of my time and that is just not worth it.

    I don’t have a problem lending out a hand when someone needs it without needed something back. I appreciate your candor, but that would go way over the line with most.

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Kraig - Young Cheap Living says July 24

Grayson,

I’d like to think I would have bought the beans for him too. You did a good thing. I wish it was that easy to help people more often, but it seems like most people in need aren’t right in front of us. Instead, they are out in homeless shelters, on the streets, in prison, etc.

Anyway, great story and nice job doing a good deed for this guy and his son. Even if he wasn’t treating everyone well, I believe we all deserve to eat. It would have been harder to buy that for him though, I’m sure.

Take care,

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    Grayson says July 25

    We tend to not pay attention what is going on around us. We have face paced lives and we have things that we are focusing on. I try to look around me from time to time to see what is really going on. It is eye opening.

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Michael | The Student Loan Sherpa says July 28

Fantastic article! Reading this makes me feel a little bit better about mankind.
These days it is so easy to judge people or jump to the conclusion that we know better than some stranger, but I really like that you just made your decision on the facts right in front of you. He wanted to buy some healthy food for a young child, couldn’t afford it, so you helped him. The other stuff is not relevant.
I sincerely hope I would do the same thing were I in your position.

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