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Paying it Forward: Kindness Unexpected and Unexplained

Thera Gwyn Jaramillo

I was tempted to write today about Donald Trump's insults about LeBron James and how First Lady Melania Trump contradicted her husband and commended the basketball star for his commitment to childhood education. Then I happened upon this CNN story about a woman, in desperate straits, who was helped by an act of kindness by another big name African American star.

That, I thought, is much more uplifting. I'm sick of writing about Trump and how disgusting he is.

Therra Gwyn Jaramillo said she was on the verge of an emotional breakdown Monday when a stranger came to her rescue when she needed it the most -- in the checkout line of a Whole Foods store.

Since losing her husband to brain cancer in 2014, Jaramillo has struggled to make ends meet, taking care of four rescued dogs, two rescued cats, her elderly, blind chicken named Dixie and her disabled brother.

"It's all on me," she wrote on Facebook. "I was too embarrassed to say out loud I was having financial difficulty but it was a solid problem. I was making rice for me and the dogs to eat. I was losing sleep. I was crying daily. I rationed gas in my car.

"I felt like shit. Like a loser," she wrote. "It was breaking me in pieces. I was scared of the future, immediate and long term. If I can’t take care of myself, I reasoned, I am majestically fucked. I crashed under the pressure and it got r-r-r-rough. I almost gave up completely and have rarely felt so alone."

But, a good friend bought Jaramillo a gift card for groceries at a Whole Foods in the Atlanta area to help her out, she said. So she went to the grocery store "with a dream of hummus and fresh food. Real dog food for the pups. Maybe a pizza with roasted exotic toppings. Holy shit, Facebookies I wanted to eat like a piranha dropped into a pool party in Vegas," her Facebook post said,

In the checkout lane, Jaramillo realized her items had been mixed in with those of the "handsome stranger" in line ahead of her. She didn't realize the man was Chris "Ludacris" Bridges, the rapper and actor who lives in Atlanta.

"I got this," he said. He wouldn't let her pay.

Here's the rest of her post. I couldn't do any better:

I stared wide-eyed at this handsome young African-American man, this stranger, as if he'd just dropped through the ceiling like a black James Bond, like a Batman, like the Black Panther. Then I started to cry. I asked his name. "Chris," he said.

We shook hands. Then I hugged him, shedding tears on the tattoo on his shoulder. I thanked him but I was so stunned that even as we made small talk (he asked me about my four dogs) I tripped over my words, all the while thinking, "I'm talking to an angel. Should I tell him? Should I tell him he's an angel?"

"Who ARE you?" I asked at one point, in true wonder."

Just a guy," he said.No. Not "just a guy." I thought. No. After he paid my for ALL my stuff ($375 total) he said, "They'll make sure you get all this out to your car, okay? Do you need any help?"

“No, “ I said, tears still streaming down my face, “But I do need to thank you again.”

“You’re sweet,” he said softly, looking at me with real kindness in his eyes, “You’re nice to rescue dogs.”

“I’m lucky,” I said, “You, my friend, are sweet. You’re special. I want to be like you.” We hugged again.

He left.

The cashier came around to put the last of my treasures into my cart and said casually to me, “You know that’s Ludacris, right?”

“WHAT” I screamed. Everyone behind me in line that had watched his drama unfold started talking to me at once.

“I love him!” I yelled and in my hysteria launched into the worst possible white-woman rendition of his hit “Rollout (My Business)” thus probably undoing all goodwill any person of color in that line felt for me while watching me sob so gratefully on the Grammy-winner’s shoulder.

Igrabbed the cashier and hugged her hard. She said, “Awww, this is all so nice.”

Beautiful girl, you have no idea.

She continued:

What Ludacris had no way of knowing is that I can't really afford to shop at Whole Foods. Not much, anyway. I was there because Miracle Mary gave me a gift card and knew I'd been shouldering a very rough time as of late.

What Ludacris had no way of knowing is that my husband died of brain cancer and climbing out of that hole, emotionally, physically and financially, has devastated me for most of four years. I won't lie. I've struggled in ways I didn't know a human could struggle and still survive.

What Ludacris had no way of knowing is that I'm Hurricane Katrina survivor and I lost my mother because of that unnatural disaster.

What Ludacris had no way of knowing is that his quiet kindness and generous gesture came at a moment when my candle was out.

He used his personal light to fire up my own. Isn't that what we should be doing for each other?

I think it is. Be like Ludacris y'all. I know I'm gonna do it. Pay it forward. We can, every one of us, do SOMEthing for others. You never know a stranger’s full story when you reach out a hand and yank them into a better place.

Thank you, Chris. God bless you.

God bless you both.

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