Chivalry Beneath 50lbs. Of Dog Food

-by Beth Dugger Brown-One cold winter afternoon I was making my way too often trip to Wal-Mart. This is something that I do not enjoy, but they have the best price on my sensitive Labrador’s dog food, so in I went. It was probably 6 p.m. but it was winter so it had been dark for about 2 hours. It was windy and generally unpleasant.

I had already bought the 50lb bag of chow and an assortment of other ‘necessities’. On the way to the car I was in my own world, planning supper and the next day’s events. I became aware of quickening footsteps behind me. I could hear them getting closer. At first I expected someone to call my name, but they didn’t. Getting nervous I got my keys out of my purse and put one key between each finger. If I needed a fist it would be infused with keys. I was almost to my car and thinking that I had made when the person behind me spoke.

“Ma’am, let me put that dog food in your car.”

I turned around, completely taken off guard. I find a clean-cut middle-aged man holding a solitary plastic Wal-Mart sack. Being my independent (mostly) self -and not completely trusting this harmless looking man- I said “That’s ok. I got it.”

He insisted. “Ma’am, I try to treat every woman how I would want my wife to be treated. That bag is big and I would want someone to help my wife get it in her car.” I held his single bag as he situated the dog food in the backseat. I wanted to ask him about his wife, but he was in a hurry. I assumed he was going home to see her. He did tell me that they had been together for more than 20 years. I could tell that he was completely devoted to her. And maybe slightly uncomfortable talking to a strange, overly inquisitive woman without her around. I thanked him and hopped in my car.

When I got home I unloaded that 50lb bag by myself. Truly, I would have it no other way. I told my husband about the man who I thought was a purse snatcher, but turned out to be a genuinely nice guy.

I have never had anyone before or since offer to help me with my big bag of dog food. I have had to step around able bodied young men and wrestle the bag up from the floor of the store to the basket of the cart. I have chunked it in the back of my SUV a hundred times since then in plain view of a hundred men. I don’t blame them. I would look at me and say ‘she’s capable. I’ll save my help for a little old lady.’ It wasn’t about the help. It was about knowing that there are people out there who look at strangers and think ‘I want to treat this person like I want my family to be treated.’

It’s been a few years since this happened and it has changed my perspective on life. I do my best to be more polite, more accommodating, more forgiving. I would not know this man if he spoke to me today, but if you happen to be reading this I want to say THANK YOU for giving me a new perspective.