I was probably about eleven or twelve and we were living in Waianae on the leeward side of O’ahu. Now, there were a lot of issues with me back then. And I’m not to go into them here but needless to say, I was struggling to stay afloat. I was being bombarded at all sides and the support system I had recently disintegrated following the deaths of my two grandfathers as well as the collie I’d been given as a baby. This led to an escalation of violence and abuse by my father who no longer had anyone to tell him to stop.
See, I was trying so hard to find out who I was and to survive should’ve loved and protected me but pretty much was willing to kill me, both physically and psychologically. My world was an upside down mess of a labyrinth and I was lost.
One day I’d gone out with my younger sister — she’s four years younger than I am — and I had some money on me. We stopped at a bakery because I was going to buy us donuts. She picked out one and I picked out another but I didn’t have enough money on me.
The woman behind the counter told me to come back tomorrow with the difference. Her coworker who was standing behind her told her that was the wrong thing to do because I would not return with the money. I remember her looking at that other woman and say sometimes you have to trust, sometimes you have to give people the opportunity to do the right thing.
It was like fifteen cents and I made sure I stopped by after school the next day and gave it to her. She turned to her coworker said, “See?”.
I still can’t even talk about this without crying.
She gave me something very special that day. She taught me what integrity was.
It wasn’t something I understood and there was a dual purpose to be returning, one because she extended her trust to me and I kind of wanted to say fuck you to the other woman. Because she made me less than what I was, or at least less who I wanted to be.
I didn’t practice that lesson until I turned nineteen and realized I didn’t care for the person I was. And it’s not like I’m a fantastic person. I am envious and jealous and spiteful and angry and I still question the value and whether or not I make a difference. My legacy will not be children or a groundbreaking, life altering discovery that changes the world. And I question that too because why are we here if only to exist?
I think we have to do better than just survive our lives. Or at least I hope that’s the point of all of this. That woman changed who I was, who I was going to be. And it may sound stupid but it was a single defining moment I can point to and say, someone believed there was a bit of humanity in me and I refused to let them down.
So, to the nameless woman who worked in a Waianae bakery over forty years ago, I say thank you. You did something for someone. Something they carried with them their entire lives. I cannot repay you for the gift you gave but I hope to give it to others. I hope your life is wonderful and joy filled and I am eternally grateful for your faith.
Take what you want out of this post. I just needed to share this today. Hope it reminds you there are good people out there, and maybe even remind you that you’re one too. ❤