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Anna knew she only had three dollars in her pocket when she walked inside the family grocery store across town.  With the gas tank on empty and no food in the fridge, Anna felt like she had no choice but to go to the store anyway.  She felt it was her only means to support her family.  Though Anna had always obeyed the law and stealing was not part of her mentality, this would be the hardest and most desperate thing she would ever have to do to help them survive.

Her kids had not eaten in a day and it had been two days for her.  Crying herself to sleep, only made the sadness temporarily disappear until the morning when their bellies gurgled from being hungry.  Trying to make a fresh start from an abusive boyfriend, she found a friend giving her a second chance at life with a new apartment.  When her boyfriend found and beat her, he took everything she desperately needed so much.  It was now all gone.  She was left with no food, formula or money.

Walking into the store, Anna tried to casually look around to see if others were watching. When the coast was clear, she began sticking small food items into her oversized coat pockets.  She worried about being caught by the store or by being arrested but her mind was solely focused on feeding her children at whatever cost. Feeling like she had what she could hide, she headed for the front door walking outside towards the parking lot. She was confronted by a Loss Prevention Officer who told her she was being detained for shoplifting.

He escorted her to the back office ordering her to remove all of the items she had stuffed inside her coat telling Anna how the camera caught everything and he had no choice but to call Police.  Anna begged him not to call but the Officer told her it’s their store’s policy to prosecute all shoplifters and she was one of them.   Trying to explain why she did what she did, the young Security Guard did not want to listen to her.  He seemed to be more interested in catching one of the bad guys.  The dramatic young man seemed to be scaring Anna into tearing up.

One Police Officer responded to the shoplifting call expecting something other than whom he was met by.  In the interim, the Store Manager did not want to press charges and took his Security Guard out of the room then came back in without him.  “There seems to be something wrong with our Security camera and we didn’t see her take anything.  It appears to be a misunderstanding between my employee and this young lady.” The Manager would later say.  Anna knew one of them was lying but she couldn’t understand why, nor did she want to question it.

Later, he would be told he was once hungry and someone helped him.  He wanted to do the same for this single mom.  Anna and the Officer walked outside to his vehicle for further questioning. He had a decision to make.

At the Officer’s cruiser, he found no warrants not even a parking ticket in Anna’s name.  Standing in front of him in tears, she begged him. “Please don’t arrest me in front of my children. They have seen some really bad stuff in their short lives and they can’t see their momma be taken away in handcuffs.  It would destroy them.”

The Officer who has seen his share of families struggling without the basic necessities and knowing jail is not the answer decided not to arrest Anna but instead of doing the next best thing.  At that time another Officer happened to be driving by and stopped at the store to assist.  Fear washing over Anna begged the Officers again.   “Please not in front of my kids.  I only stole this one time for my kids who haven’t eaten in a few days.”

The Officer talked over his decision with the second Officer and announced to Anna he was not going to arrest her.  He said he and the Officer had to go back inside the store and for her wait until they returned.  Upon walking in the front door, they were greeted by the Store Manager.  “I was hoping you weren’t going to arrest her.  Please take whatever she needs.  Consider it a donation from me personally to her family.”

Expecting the Officers to come back outside to arrest her, Anna would instead be overjoyed by the display of compassion reigned upon her family.  Loading up the small bag of groceries into her vehicle, they know it’s not much to feed a family of three at the moment and would have to do for the time-being.

Anna is so overjoyed, she can’t stop saying thank you to her Heroes as she calls them for saving her and her family from the unknown and being arrested.  Following her home, they see firsthand how Anna and children are struggling to pay rent on a newly moved into apartment and driving a beater car.  They know they can give her a much better start in life but they are going to have to call in more reinforcements.

Later that afternoon, Anna remembers a knock on her apartment door and instead of just the two Police Officers she had an earlier encounter with, she is met by a whole force or so it seems to Anna.  They have not just come to visit her but to bring her family more groceries, money and offer support from the town’s local Police Department and Social workers they called in for assistance.  Her tears are no longer about how is she going to take care of her family but of joy in knowing she is now be empowered to take care of them with the help of her Community.

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About the Inspiration behind this Story.

So many Police Officers have seen tragic things on the job and this is based upon one Police Officer in a sea of terrible things took a golden opportunity to Pay It Forward.  In addition to his great humanitarian act, he enlisted the assistance of fellow Officers who would change a woman and her six kids lives forever by purchasing additional groceries filling her fridge and helping her financially.  Officers gave of their own money to help a perfect stranger without any limelight or expecting any media attention.  She will forever remember the good deeds of these Officers in her community and Pay It Forward to someone who may need the same act of kindness.

[c] 2015 The NW Fire Blog | LR Swenson