Halvorsen Gatlin: Is there still kindness in the world?

There is in our part of it.

By Tommi Halvorsen Gatlin

For The Vidette

Heading from my home in Elma for a medical appointment in Olympia recently, I formulated my usual plan of fitting in whatever else I could also do while I was in the “big city.”

Before leaving town, though, I dropped off an important letter at the post office, then went to my bank’s ATM. But because I don’t use the ATM often, I couldn’t remember if it only provided $20 bills. I wanted at least one $10 bill.

I decided to try it, and if I couldn’t get both denominations there, I’d drive up to the outside teller window to withdraw them. Indeed, only twenties were available from the ATM, but the tellers there are so nice that it’s always a treat to see their friendly faces.

Hitting the highway to Olympia then, I drove toward a favorite grocery store, WinCo. But I stopped first for gas at a service station close by. After using some cash to pay (it’s less expensive than paying with a debit card), I then headed to WinCo.

Because it was still morning and my medical appointment was for late afternoon, I took my time to choose my grocery purchases.

My daughter was scheduled soon for surgery in Edmonds, north of Seattle. And as her designated driver, as well as her required companion for both her pre-op visit and the surgery, I also made sure to purchase anything at WinCo I might need during those several days.


Checking out my groceries, I opened my wallet for my debit card, which I’d used at the ATM. But it wasn’t there! And thoroughly searching my wallet, purse and pockets, I finally had to accept that the card was not with me in the store.

Realizing my dilemma, a sympathetic woman commented at one point that “people are not kind.”

My being shaken by my predicament probably saved her from a bit of a lecture from me, as I’ve been repeatedly on the receiving end of people’s kindheartedness in countless ways. Nevertheless, because I’ve been so grateful for the myriad kindnesses of others, I was at least able to respond.

“Sometimes they are,” I said simply.

Not only was I hugely concerned about not being able to lay my hands on my debit card, I was also holding up the line of shoppers waiting behind me. So I asked the checker if my groceries would be in the way if I left them there while I went out to search my car. She said they wouldn’t be.

Combing through my car, I was a bit flustered when a woman planted herself nearby and asked how my day was going. I acknowledged it could have been better, since my debit card was missing. But she just continued to stand there watching me as I searched.


Finally realizing the card wasn’t in my car, either, I made my way back into the store and to the checkout stand where I’d left my groceries.

“Here’s your receipt,” a man nearby said, handing me a slip of paper.

“My receipt?” I asked incredulously.

He and his wife had paid for my groceries. It was his wife’s idea, he noted, adding that he’d sent her out to my car to make sure I didn’t leave without returning to the store first.

Other than thanking them, I was speechless.

Back in my car, with my groceries, I called my bank to have my debit card restricted until I could either find or replace it. I was very relieved to learn it would be restricted momentarily.

Still, I had to try to find that elusive card. I backtracked to the service station. Though I’d paid with cash, I thought the card might have fallen out of my wallet when I’d got the cash out.

Explaining my problem to the cashier there, he asked which pump I’d used. “No 3,” I replied. He then asked if I had any ID. As I drew out my driver’s license, he said someone had turned in a debit card.

“Is it green?” I asked. When he said it was, I asked if it was “lime green.”

“Yes,” he said. Then, having checked my ID, he reached for my debit card and handed it to me, saying someone had found it on top of the pump.

Because I never put it on a pump when I get gas, that indicated to me that someone else likely found it on the ground and put it on the pump, then a second person finding it on top of the pump brought it to the cashier.

The only downer that day was not having any way to personally thank everyone who had been so kind to me in that short span of time. I counted at least seven!

Leaving my medical appointment later that day, I smiled when I saw the three words on the back license plate frame of the car in front of me.

“Believe in Nice,” it said.

To reach columnist Tommi Halvorsen Gatlin, send an email to rhoda1946@yahoo.com.