A Nugget of Kindness

I took a final gurgling slurp through my straw, balled up the empty hamburger wrapper and gathered trash as I stood to leave. That’s when I heard the little boy at the next table.

“No more chicken nuggets? I’m still hungry.”

As he asked, he and his little sister opened and shut the empty containers several times as if to verify their mother’s response when she answered “All gone.” The sight of two hungry kids looking earnestly between empty containers and their mother’s face almost made me ill. Memories have power. Even mine, some twenty years later.

My kids, then four and five, had just finished their own chicken nuggets. They were happily playing with the meal’s tiny toy when my daughter stopped and looked at me.

“No more chicken nuggets?”

Those were bleak years for me. A divorce, a lay-off, rent payment, car payment, and everyday bills made life challenging. Unfortunately, maybe fortunately, the kids and I frequented this fast food restaurant once a week. They occasionally saw friends there and always wanted chicken nuggets. They had stopped asking for sundaes. I was glad. I’d run out of excuses as to why they couldn’t have them. Never mentioning what they’d not have understood – money was tight. They looked forward to this outing and the same elderly cashier greeted us each time, always playfully interacting with them.

“No more chicken nuggets?” I heard her little voice repeat.

I had absolutely no cash and no other way to pay, but I remembered spare change in the car. Out we went. The kids stood behind me as I leaned inside to gather coins. There were fewer than I remembered, but was thrilled to find a total of fifty-six cents. Two quarters, a nickel, and a penny impossibly stuck to an old gummy bear. Money just the same.

Back at the table, I left the kids to their sodas while I went to the counter. Embarrassing! But my feelings of shame were overpowered by the desire to hand my kids more nuggets after watching them peer longingly into empty boxes. I guess it was symbolic. They wanted something. I should be able to give it to them.

The same elderly cashier greeted me. I pointed to the kids and told her they wanted more nuggets. My face turned red as I confessed I only had fifty-six cents, but would be happy to take what she could give me for that amount. If I went back to the table with at least one nugget each they might be happy. Next time I’d get sundaes too, I thought, trying to feel better about my parental failure.

I handed over the coins, apologized for the gummy bear remains I couldn’t totally pick off, and waited for her ridicule.

Instead, she took my offering, said nothing, but walked to the back behind large stainless steel shelves. In seconds she returned, smiled, and handed me a small bag. Relief! When I took the bag, something seemed odd. I opened it.

I had hoped for two chicken nuggets. What I got was a container crammed full of at least a dozen. No words came to me as I looked at the kindly cashier. I was stuttering a lame explanation for my situation when she shook her head and held up one hand to stop me.

She shrugged it off. “Sometimes it be like that.” She said, and went on her way.

Back at the table I opened the bag, spread out a dozen nuggets, and heard my kids squeal. At the bottom of the bag were two quarters, a nickel, and a penny miraculously freed from the remnants of an old gummy bear.

That entire memory was a sad, happy, emotional one of times and circumstances now long gone.

The elderly cashier knew nuggets wouldn’t solve everything for me, but she also seemed to know from experience how a small gesture with a large meaning might help me through a very low moment.

I snapped back to reality hearing the little boy’s voice at the next table.

 “No more chicken nuggets? I’m still hungry.” He and his little sister continued to open and shut the empty containers as if to will a few more to appear.

I don’t remember every detail of my bleak times decades ago, but I do remember the helpless feeling and silent frantic search for a few more pennies when your kids ask for something as simple as a chicken nugget and you just can’t do it. That silent frantic search was going on at the next table as the mother poked and prodded every nook and cranny of her purse.

I knew what she was feeling.

Tossing my trash into the can, I stopped at the counter and spoke with the young girl at the register.

“When I leave, can you take two orders of chicken nuggets to that table?” I motioned behind me at the mother who had moved on to pants pockets in her search. The cashier nodded yes.

“Oh, and three sundaes too.” I added.

Puzzled, she rang up my order and handed me the receipt, her expression clearly asking what was going on with the woman at the table.

I shrugged it off. “Sometimes it be like that.” I said, and went on my way.  

I knew nuggets and sundaes wouldn’t solve everything for her, but I also knew from experience how a small gesture with a large meaning might help her through a very low moment.

On a related note: The few times in life I’ve felt I did a “good deed” I think of and give credit to my grandmother, Nannie. She always said “When you see a need, fill it, and don’t worry about who gets the credit.” In conversation she’d go on to say if you can’t do a lot, do a little, because to someone else your little could be a lot.

Stuart M. Perkins

204 Comments

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204 responses to “A Nugget of Kindness

  1. Lovely and an important reminder. Thank you!

  2. Beautiful. Thank you for sharing 🤍

  3. This brought me to tears! I too once had a situation where we didn’t know where our next meal would come from! There were 5 of us to feed! A packet of pink bologna and a loaf of bread seemed like a feast! Thanks for sharing this beautiful story!

  4. I am crying like a mess here. I bet this takes back everyone to some point in their lives. It so wonderfully written. Thank you. Thank you.

  5. I love this story. I love how our experiences shape us to see the world more clearly. Thank you for sharing. It made me cry.

  6. I’ve had such a similar experience that my eyes are full of tears.

  7. keithalvares

    That’s payback!!! 👏👏👏

  8. Paying it forward. Bless you.

  9. Nannie was right. My mom said the same. If only all had such lessons to live by.

  10. What a beautiful story! Stories of acts of kindness always make me smile.

  11. A little that’s a lot-do what we can. Thank you for sharing your story.

  12. This is a beautiful story, Stuart. Put a smile on my face and tugged at the ol’ heart as well. 🙂

  13. Oh, Stuart, you have done it again. Your lovely story of simple kindness made me cry. I should know by now before I open your posts I should fetch a tissue or two! Paying it forward can be so life-changing for those on both the receiving and giving end. Thank you for this reminder. God bless you.

  14. This was a good read💕

  15. What a beautiful story! Sometimes it be like that…it’s moments like this that make life rich. Thank you for sharing this.

  16. Uffff….this brought tears in my eyes. I grew up in a modest family and this brings back memories. But so happy to see that kind people still exist. ❤️

  17. Is someone cutting onions? I’m not crying…I promise. That was so beautiful! God bless you!

  18. Beautifully written and a gorgeous way to pay it forward. A little can mean a lot, so true x

  19. Pingback: Coming Together – Surprised By Joy

  20. I love this! I love your kindness, your vulnerability…and hey, your being a great dad. You scrape to take care of your kids…AND…set a strong example. Doesn’t get any better than that!

  21. Ah, the wisdom of grandmothers. No wisdom such as that comes from an easy life. Strong character grows only from the hard things endured. Those chicken nuggets might have well been made out of gold. For the reaction from your kids is that of great value. In the joy it brought them and your level of humility to approach the vendor in hopes of fulfilling the duties of a dad regardless of one of means or no means is priceless. Pride would have kept this special moment when your children saw you dad as hero. And also would have denied that vendor the grace she earned and so well deserved from a good deed done.
    When I was able still to drive I would go to a drive-up window at a Dunkin Doughnut and pay for the person behind me. I’d ask the attendant what the cost was, then pay it. I never waited around but found satisfaction in what a story that person or family behind me had to tell at the dinner table that night. It turned an ordinary day into an extraordinary day for us both. I wonder what story that lady had to tell when those nuggets and sundaes showed up at her table?
    Well done, as always, Stuart.
    -Alan

  22. Stuart, Great story. Great story telling. Keep up the good work and the good heart. I think you will like my weekly one-pager articles. You can follow me at https://wordpress.com/posts/aguynamedbobblog if you agree. Have a wonderful weekend. Bob

  23. There is a lot of goodness in the world that we often miss by brooding over the bad. Beautiful story, thanks for sharing!

  24. Such a heartwarming story. Thank you for sharing your experiences with us.

  25. tommestevenson@gmail.com

    All great stories start in tragedy and end in triumph. We want to avoid the tragedy and still have the triumph. This story reminds us of God’s great compassion. I’ve been where you were. It is heart warming to hear the story of your triumph.

  26. Stuart, I cried SO hard reading this. I’ve been in both positions myself. This was an incredible story, thanks so much for sharing it with me and reminding me about what’s most important in this life… 🥰 giving!

  27. Beautiful story, Stuart!

  28. This story was a sad, happy, emotional one, thank you for sharing your Nannie would be proud!

  29. In my opinion, in the Eyes of God, you elevated yourself to the role of Guardian Angel the day you gave those children those nuggets and sundaes. Sometimes little gestures of good will become big, important, memorable, notable and even life-saving events to those who receive them. It is a situation when the consequences of such generosity as you showed that day may be incalculable. I believe this was bread that was well cast upon the waters and that since then, your generosity surely must have returned many blessing to you.

    I have always believed that if God blesses us with substance of any kind that we are to become a channel of His blessings to others, using our gifts to proclaim the reality of His loving Spirit. In your act of generosity, you surely became a channel for God’s work.

    I remember living through some hard times, many years ago, when I would have welcomed someone with a heart such as yours to come to my rescue …and on at least one occasion, there was such a person and he changed my life with his caring and understanding heart.

    I am thinking, as I write this, that the scent of roses must always follow the air that surrounds you. I am confident that because of you, the sunshine is shining a lot brighter in some other people’s lives.

    • Thanks John. A nicer compliment I have never received! But I was just a Dad with no money who couldn’t stand seeing his kids ask – not whine but simply ask – for nothing but a chicken nugget and I not be able to even do that. I was ready to feel sorry for myself, pout, be depressed and sad (all of which I eventually did) but I was going to try to get them more nuggets first. The true blessing came from the old lady behind the counter. She recognized what was going on and gave me a break – which allowed me to look like the good guy to my kids. We all know the value of that can’t be measured. Thank you for the great and kind comment!

  30. This gave me a nice warm feeling.
    thank you.

  31. I’m glad it’s in writing, if it was a movie scene I would have cried

  32. A beautiful reminder that when we can, we should.
    Thank you.

  33. I lived that as a single parent in the 1990’s. I was the recipient of more than one good Samaritan who helped along the way. I’m grateful! Thanks for helping out when you could, and for this great story.

  34. Love all of this. Beautiful, Stuart. Thank you!

  35. Thank you for sharing! We need more of this today. 💕

  36. Your Nannie’s wisdom was spot on!

  37. I read a few of your blogs and liked them immensely. You are a truly gifted story teller!! I am so delighted to have found your blog. (Thank you for liking my blog–by the way–amazingly kind of you–after reading some of yours.) I am looking forward to reading more of your stories!

  38. U

    A very wise grandmother you had!

  39. Daniel Kemp

    Such a very kind gesture.

  40. Thank you very much for your nice ❤️ on my blog ☺️

    By the way. Nice article.

  41. Nice little story about chicken nuggets 🤣

  42. Love this! A wise man once said that the whole purpose of life is serving others .

  43. Shalini Kathuria Narang

    Fragrance always stays in the hand that gives a flower. Poignant and powerful piece of writing!

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