Hours later, Foodland was still buzzing.
On Thursday morning during the 6 to 7 a.m. kupuna shopping hour — the time three days a week set aside for those 60 and older to buy their groceries — the customers at Foodland, Sack N Save and Foodland Farms stores around the state were told that someone was paying for their purchases.
Close to 2,000 people got their groceries for free, a completely unexpected gift that not even Foodland cashiers knew about until just before the morning shift started.
Around noon that day, the excitement was still palpable. The cashier who knows me beamed excitedly behind the cover of her mask from beyond the plastic partition and asked, “Did you hear?!!!”
She was so happy to tell me. I swear workers were humming as they stocked the shelves, skipping as they brought in carts to wipe.
That was one of the most amazing things about the gift.
It wasn’t just about the free groceries. It was the ripples on a pond.
It was a warm thing to talk about, something to remind us of the goodness in people, a bright light as we keep slogging through these days of Zoom meetings and virtual graduations and the unstopping onslaught of people breaking curfew and insisting it is their right to do so.
The big donation was coordinated through Foodland’s executive management and fell on a date toward the end of the month, when Social Security checks are running out and sometimes kitchen cupboards are looking a bit bare.
It also happened in a time when, months into this pandemic state, people are feeling anxious about finally taking steps to get back to normal, yet nervous about what that will mean for public health.
It was a perfect time for a small miracle. For some, maybe it wasn’t all that small.
It’s kind of lovely not to know the identity of the generous benefactor.
The anonymity was a gift, too.
It could be someone no one would ever suspect. There are many possibilities.
Hawaii can savor the idea that a benevolent person lives here among us, someone who had both the means to pull this off and the heart to make it happen. When you aren’t sure who your helper was, you start to look at many people with gratitude.
Years ago, one of the most generous people I’ve ever known told me, “The thing is, when you help somebody, you don’t say anything about it. You don’t talk about it. You just do it.”
That’s a radical idea in the age of social media validation and do-gooder programs that require the careful documentation of volunteer hours.
That’s not to say that there’s anything wrong with the donation press release or the picture with the big cardboard check. That kind of publicity about generosity often inspires more generosity.
But so does this quiet, anonymous act, this big surprise carried out in such a low-key way. Maybe the source of this largess will never be revealed or discovered, but will be remembered as something truly kind that happened when Hawaii least expected it.