As a freelance writer, I’m well-versed in the struggles of trying to make ends meet. Some clients take ages to pay, and you have to chase them down with invoices while simultaneously lining up other work to support yourself and your canine dependents. This gig economy can honestly be a hassle.
Therra Jaramillo has been struggling with finances ever since her husband died of brain cancer. She's a freelance writer in Atlanta who was left with almost nothing in her checking account after a client was late in paying her. Therra and her rescue dogs were living off rice and vegetables, until a friend gave her a gift card to Whole Foods one day.
She got to the checkout line excited as ever, and distractedly placed her items on the conveyor belt without separating them from the groceries of the person in line ahead of her. As she went to correct her mistake, the guy in front of her said the woman's groceries were on him. All of them.
That altruistic hero was none other than rap star and actor Ludacris.
Therra took to Facebook to share her serendipitous encounter in a post that has since gone viral. Like any good copywriter, she knows how to hook her reader — here's how she begins:
Facebookies. Listen up my beauties because I’m about to share a story even I’m having trouble believing.
One of y’all sharpies a while back noticed and commented about my repeatedly having interesting/bizarre/funny experiences while in line at the grocery store and I thought, you know…you are right. I seem to always unwittingly get in the line where something is about to go down. Well, a few hours ago I had another one. One that stunned me into the stratosphere. But it happened for real and I want you to know about it, for a number of reasons.
First let me say that I dropped off of social media last week when a crisis point came into my life because I was feeling so badly and didn’t want to have a meltdown on Facebook. (You know things are bad when Tell-It-All-Therra isn’t willing to melt on social media.) Suffice it to say things were worse than bad. Hard. Grinding. I ran into a financial hit of almost $4,000 within one month when I had to get a new water heater ($2,000) and I didn’t get a freelance writing check I was owed. I got a delay and then another and a bit of a runaround from the company as to why I wasn’t getting paid. Thankfully an ultra-savvy editor had my back and championed me and is trying to fix it, but my budget simply will not hold under that huge a hit.
It’s just me who is responsible for taking care of everything now — the house, the property, four rescued dogs, two rescued cats, an elderly, blind chicken named Dixie Licklighter, my disabled brother…and myself. There is no one else to do it. It's all on me. 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 sh-t. Like a loser. 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 f--ked. I crashed under the pressure and it got r-r-r-rough.
I almost gave up completely and have rarely felt so alone.
Anyway, my friend (Miracle Mary I call her) very kindly sent me a gift card to Whole Foods today. It unexpectedly popped up in my text box. I was so grateful I sat down and wept. I knew why she did it. I hated that she felt the need to. I love her pure soul and her kindness. She’s beautiful and smart, gentle – so many things that I’m not – and I love her.
I went to a Whole Foods across town 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. The Tom Petty song “Swingin’” kept playing on a loop in my head. As I walked through the door to the store I whispered to myself, “I may go down, but I’m going down swinging.” I set my jaw and started shopping with a relief I haven’t felt all month.
While in line, I was so tired and the food for my pets kind of ended up in with the stuff of the guy ahead of me on the conveyor belt.
This is where Therra's story takes a miraculous turn:
“Whoa,” I said to the very pretty cashier, “Oh no, sorry, that's mine. So sorry."
The guy in front of me said, “I might as well get it.”
He wanted to buy food for my pets. I even clumsily tried to stop the cashier at a certain amount, because the gift card was for $250 and I had gone way over, which at Whole Foods is far too easy to do. I was out of a lot of things at home and I hadn’t added things in my head correctly. My head hasn’t worked all month due to stress. Nothing has worked all month.
He stopped me, "I said I got this," he said.
All of this, he told me. All of my groceries.
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.
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.
I grabbed the cashier and hugged her hard. She said, “Awww, this is all so nice.”
Therra reflects on Ludacris' kindness, and urges others to do whatever we can for others, because we never know what they're going through.
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?
It definitely is. Be like Ludacris — do something selfless for a stranger without a vested interest or anything in it for you. You never know when you'll be able to make someone's day, or month, like this rapper did for Therra.