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Kindness is Contagious: Grace at the gas pump

Nicole Phillips, Kindness is Contagious columnist

I walked into the gas station with my debit card in hand. "Hi! I had fuel on pump one."

The young woman behind the counter looked at her register and then looked at me. "Which pump?"

"Pump one."

Again she looked at her screen, this time with a confused little arch to her eyebrow. "I'm sorry, but there's no balance on pump one. It's been paid."

The lady next to her behind the counter leaned over to take a look. "Yep, it's been paid." A short pause came next, followed by an "Uh oh."

Now I don't know how it works in your world, but in my world, when someone says, "Uh oh" it's not usually good.

Minor chaos ensued as the two women realized that the man who had come in before me had paid for the wrong gas.

His bill was $24.00.

My bill was $19.00.

The two women stood behind the counter discussing what to do. Meanwhile, a traffic jam was starting to form in the parking lot because no one outside could use either of the gas pumps involved.

The younger woman's face crumbled as she discovered her mistake. She had hurriedly taken the man's money without checking what pump was actually his. It was probably an honest mistake all around, but now this new clerk was fearful that she would lose her job. I could see the panic written all over her.

"I'm so sorry. I'm going to have to fill out a report." She murmured it more to herself than to me.

"No, you're not," I chimed in. "I'll just pay for that man's tab and then we can pretend this never happened."

Both women turned fully towards me. I was shocked by their shock. "What?" They exclaimed in unison.

"Seriously. It's no problem. It'll just be like he paid for mine, and I paid for his."

"Yes," the more experienced clerk spoke slowly as if I didn't understand, "but then you'd have to pay $5 more than you owe."

"Honestly, it's OK. It'll be like my little act of kindness for the day."

The younger woman looked visibly relieved as I swiped my debit card. "Thank you so much. I can't believe you did that. That was so nice. That's such a big help."

She went on and on about how grateful she was before turning to my kids and continuing her monologue. "Wow. Your mom is really kind."

They shrugged and sort of smiled and said, "Yeah. We know."

As we got in the car, one of the kids said, "Mom, that lady was amazed by your kindness. It was nice of you, but it wasn't that big of a deal. Why was she so shocked?"

"I don't know. Maybe she hasn't been given much grace in her life."

My kids were right. It was $5 and it saved me the inconvenience of waiting around while someone filled out a report and got the pumps back in working order. I benefitted from my kindness more than anyone else.

But even so, it felt good to know that someday, when that young clerk is on the other side of the counter, she just might remember me and give grace too.

Please continue to share your stories of kindness with me at info@nicolejphillips.com. Or send a letter to Kindness is Contagious c/o Nicole J. Phillips, The Forum, 101 5th St. N., Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107.

Nicole J. Phillips is a former television anchor for Fox News in Fargo. She is a writer, speaker and mother of three kids. Nicole is married to Ohio University's men's head basketball coach Saul Phillips. Her column runs every Friday. You can visit Nicole at " target="_blank">nicolejphillips.com.

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