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
274 responses to “A Nugget of Kindness”
Stuart, I was swallowing tears as I read this. I was a poor kid and I know exactly what this feels like.
I believe as we follow God He directs our steps. Sounds like you were right where you needed to me that day and were quite possibly the answer to a momma’s prayer. The more I read your stories the more I like you. You’re a really good writer, but more than that, you’re a kind person. Blessings,
Thanks Mechelle! Just a regular ‘ol person here, but I do think we’re all placed where we should be when needed, so if I helped that lady even a little bit, for one little moment, then glad to have been where I needed to be. Thank you again for that great comment.
Loved this, Stuart. I recently started to pay at the drive in window for the order behind me — not every time but a couple of times a month. It gives me joy to imagine the face of the person in the vehicle behind me as they learn that their lunch is paid for. Your story is so personal and touching…I hope others will try to notice need and do something spontaneous to help.
Thanks for that! I agree, it’s fun to imagine what the person thinks and how that little act might be just what they needed that day. And what a fun story they can tell at the dinner table! Thanks again.
This world needs more of people like you, the elderly cashier and ofcourse your nannie.
Thank you Shruti! We definitely need more Nannies!
I just reread this, and it’s so good.
I appreciate that, Jill! Thank you again.
I am glad you found my little blog, since then I found yours. Loved this. And, yes, sometimes it just be like that. Your grandmother, by the way, was also very wise!
Love to read other blogs! And thank you!
Lovely story. Small gestures of kindness go a long way ✨❤️
Yes they do, thanks!
been there, done that – both ways. tears in my eyes
Emotional, from either angle!
Thank you for sharing this story. Tears in my eyes…
‘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.”
Awww, thank you!
Awwwn 😊😊 this almost brought tears to my eyes, quite touching
A beautiful Story, my friend! God Bless!
Hi Stuart, I see you have liked my blog post, how kind, and it has led me to your lovely stories. You had me with a lump in my throat, not just once, but twice in two stories. The sad thing is I don’t know how to connect with your blog on my blog. Perhaps that is not a thing any more, but I know I need to link to like minded people, to get some visitors on my blog. Well, my problem, not yours, but thanks anyway!
Thanks for that! I had few followers for years too, but as you keep writing, the come!
Great story. I love this!
Wow , just wow.
I loved the story. Can’t find words to express what I feel, but the story is such a beautiful reminder to be kind to people.
I thank you for that!
Your bit of memoir touched every fiber of my being. You remind me that true kindness, your kindness, is transcendent.
Thank you Stephen!
Reblogged this on The Corrigan Encore and commented:
This story almost brought tears to my eyes! Enjoy reading this
I thank you John!
Wow, a beautiful story filled with heartfelt kindness. I am another one who teared up while reading your words! Thanks for sharing this. 🌞
Thank you Lisa!
Moral of the story:
‘…..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.”
Simply beautiful. Thank you for sharing such an inspiring story. May God’s blessing be with you. Ameen
Thank you, Aish!
I loved this story. You were and are a wonderful father. I vet your kids thonk so too.
Thanks for that!
Beautifully written. Who knew chicken nuggets could be a symbol of love and generosity? I’m sure that momma will remember your gift for the rest of her life because you blessed her kids. Thank you for sharing your story.
I loved this story. By coincidence, I was just writing a song about some words of wisdom my grandmother, a.k.a. Nanny, once passed on to me.
I love that! It was meant to be.
I loved this recounting; it brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for sharing!
Little by little, drop by drop, an ocean is made. Loved reading this 🙏
I love reading about acts of kindness..
You were blessed to have a wonderful Nannie to pass on her wisdom.. And your children are blessed to have a wonderful father, that would hunt for sticky change to see them smile..
Your story is a golden nugget!
Golden nugget… I like that! Those were a few rough years but they had great memories just the same.
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Best story of kindness and caring ever. 😊👏🏽
I love that, thank you for being you.
Thank you for that!
Lovely story. Every little bit helps. Thanks for doing that. Xoxo
Sometimes it be like that. Magical words. Powerful words. Thank you for a life lesson. Pay it forward.
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My family has been the blessed recipients of others’ love and compassion many times, especially recently. I can’t express my gratitude enough for these God-sent people. And I am looking forward to the day that I can be one too.
You will be, Beth. And you’ll love it. Thanks!