Last week, I ran into the grocery store for a few things I needed and was cruising down the aisle when I passed a mother with two little girls. I’m guessing they were about 4 and 6 years old. I don’t normally find myself critiquing people’s clothing, but I noticed that the girls’ clothes were obviously worn, but clean. It’s not odd to find unusual characters in the discount grocery store I shop at (yes, I shop at a discount grocery store), but this little family got my attention. They were standing near the snack cake section as the mother was diligently figuring her total on a calculator – not a smart phone, a calculator, which I also found odd. As I was scanning over the juice section I heard one little girl ask her mom, “Mama, can we get some oatmeal pies this time?” Her mother replied, “Baby, I’m just not sure we can afford it… but put them in the basket and we’ll see.” The comment provoked a request from the smaller girl… “Ooooo, Mama, if we get to get prizes this trip can I please have some chocolate syrup,” she asked. “You know how much I love chocolate milk, Mama!” Her mother replied, “Okay, sweetheart. Get some and we’ll see.”
I got my juice and went along my way grabbing things from each aisle – marking things off my list. I passed the sweet little family several times and exchanged smiles as I watched her diligently choosing her groceries. Turning the corner and finding a place in the line at the register, I ended up right behind the mother and her two girls. She carefully placed her items on the belt – eggs, canned biscuits, oranges, bagged salad, some frozen veggies, meat, etc – but held the oatmeal cream pies and chocolate syrup as the very last things to go on the belt. With anxious anticipation on her girl’s faces, I watched as they seemed to keep a running total in their heads. It was obvious they knew there was a chance that they would not have enough money to get their treats. They had been here before. As the cashier rang up the last item before their girls’ items, their mother asked the cashier for a total. “$35.80” she said. I saw the utter defeat in their mother’s face as she turned to her babies and said, “Y’all, I’m sorry. We just don’t have enough this trip.” Maybe next time,” she said. The girls’ looks of excitement turned to disappointment, but I could tell, again, they had been here before. The cashier sat the snack cakes and syrup aside and bagged the other groceries. The mother paid for her groceries with her EBT card and placed them in her cart. The two girls trailed along as they left. Getting up to the cashier I asked if she would hand me those cakes and that chocolate syrup. There was no one in line behind me, so I asked if she could hold my other stuff for just a moment. I paid for the girls’ goodies and raced out to meet their mother at the cart corral. I handed her the bag and said, “I want your girls to have this.” “I know things are tight and I want you to know that it will get better. Sometimes it seems like it won’t but it will, I promise,” I said. “It wasn’t too many years ago that I was in your shoes. Basic necessities were all we had money for, so I know,” I said. She seemed a bit embarrassed. “Things are so hard for us right now – around Christmas, you know,” she said. I nodded. “I know. I’ve been there,” I said. “But keep your head up. You’re doing the right thing for your girls,” I told her. “Thank you,” she said. “Merry Christmas,” I said.
You know, our world is one that is hurting. The tense social and political climates have us being nothing but critical of one another. So many times I hear folks being negative of our public assistance programs and their recipients. Are there people who abuse the system? Of course. Is the system broken? Yes. I’ve seen it first hand – in that very same store. A woman with a Coach purse will pay for her crab legs and steaks with her EBT card and then walk out to get in her brand new $50K vehicle. But, then you see people like this sweet mother and her two girls who are doing things right. They are obviously relying on the assistance they get to survive. She was buying basics – things she HAD to have.
Do me a favor? Make an effort to see the good in folks this holiday season. We all have our struggles. We all are fighting something. And when the world has turned you cold, try to be better than that. Know the joy of helping someone who can do nothing for you. Offer a random act of kindness. Donate to a food pantry. Help a neighbor. Invite someone who is lonely to your holiday celebration.
We all need reminders every now and then. The mama and her girls were my reminder. This is yours.
I just love making chocolate covered peanut butter balls for the holidays, but they take so long. And there’s all the chocolate dipping mess. Don’t get me wrong, I do it. And I love it. But sometimes I just want something easy. This is easy. This recipe has all the great flavor of chocolate peanut butter balls in a convenient bar that literally takes about 20 minutes to make. Try them and see just how easy that can be! Y’all enjoy!
Peanut Butter Ball Bars
- 1 cup butter 2 sticks, softened
- 1 cup peanut butter crunchy or smooth
- 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- 1 (12-ounce) bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
Line an 8×8 pan with aluminum foil and lightly spray the foil with nonstick cooking spray.
In the bowl of a stand mixer or with a hand mixer, combine the butter and peanut butter until smooth. Add the graham cracker crumbs and mix well. Add the powdered sugar and mix well. A soft dough will form. Press the dough evenly into the bottom of the pan. In another bowl, melt the chocolate chips in the microwave using 30 second intervals, stirring after each interval. Microwave until the chips are nearly melted but not all the way, then stir until they melt the rest of the way to prevent them from being scorched. Spread the chocolate on top and allow to cool completely or place in the refrigerator to cool faster. Once the chocolate is firm, lift the foil out of the pan and peel it away from the bars. Slice into 1 inch squares and store in an airtight container.