Christmas spirit rides again in check-out lane at Walmart

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Perhaps not since the old Lone Ranger swooped in, took out the bad guys and left a silver bullet as a calling card has anyone felt compelled to ask: "Who was that Masked Man?"

Well, Kemo Sabe, today we have a local mystery and a woman of grand deeds all our own to celebrate this holiday season.

No mask. No cape. No silver bullets. Just a big heart, an open checkbook and a quick-on-the-draw signature.

So return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear ... OK, so maybe not exactly. But hi-ho, Silver, anyway ....

It was Monday morning. The scene was the Greencastle Walmart, where local resident Beverly Hughes was in the checkout line, buying her regular weekly groceries about 9:15 a.m., when what unfolded in front of her became an inspiring story of holiday hope, even if it falls a tad short of a true Christmas miracle.

Two customers ahead of Hughes, a young couple was attempting to buy Christmas gifts for little kids when it became painfully obvious that their fistful of cash wasn't going to be enough to cover all the goodies on the conveyor belt in front of them.

"They had a lot of little kid toys," Hughes told us. "The thing that caught my eye was a stuffed horse that was kind of sitting atop the turnstile. I thought to myself, 'Even the horse is in on it ...'"

In line in between the young couple and Hughes was a nicely dressed woman in her mid to late 40s, Hughes guessed. She was purchasing "normal stuff," Hughes said, spending about $50 on herself.

She watched intently as the young couple instructed Linda, the cashier in lane 14, to take back several items so they could stay within their budget. As the cashier began to remove some of the toys, our mystery woman sprang into action with her checkbook.

The woman quickly wrote a check -- not for the difference in the amount of cash the couple had and what they needed but for the entire amount of their purchase -- and handed it to the clerk in an instantaneous gesture of Christmas cheer.

"The cashier said, 'It's over $300,'" Hughes recalled, adding that the clerk then had to explain to the incredulous couple that their entire purchase had just been covered by the lady in line behind them.

Talk about paying it forward ...

"The cashier was amazed. I was amazed. We were all just shocked," Hughes added.

The stunned couple tried to give the mystery woman their cash but she graciously declined.

"She said, 'I'm a small business owner. Support your local businesses, that's enough,'" Hughes said, quoting the anonymous benefactor.

While the young couple walked away in shock, their Christmas surprisingly brightened by someone they didn't even know, Hughes was left to ponder what had just transpired right in front of her eyes.

"I just kept thinking, 'Who does that? Who can afford that?'" Hughes reasoned.

"I don't know who the people were. I don't know who the woman was. But she really wanted to stay anonymous."

So like the gallant Masked Man of the Old West, the Wonderful Woman of Walmart was allowed to ride off into the sunset without ever disclosing her identity. Even though there is a check with her name and signature, of course, there will be no unmasking her.

But isn't all that the true meaning of Christmas?

Like Charlie Brown says in his time-honored Christmas TV special: "Isn't there anyone here who knows what Christmas is all about?"

Sorry, Charlie, there was ... but she just left Walmart.