When an Atlanta woman who had fallen on hard times didn’t have enough money to pay for her groceries at Whole Foods, she was at her breaking point. But then a kind stranger in front of her in line offered to pay–the whole bill.
She had no idea who the stranger was until a cashier clued her in: It was the rapper Ludacris.
Therra Gwyn-Jaramillo has been “struggling on and off,” since her beloved husband died of cancer in the summer of 2014. “There wasn’t a part of my life that wasn’t destroyed – emotional, physical, financial,” Gwyn-Jaramillo told CBS News.
She was left to take care of “a practical menagerie of rescued animals,” her disabled brother and her home. While she has been freelance writing to keep her head above water, a recent hit of $4,000 for home repairs and a late check put her in a dire situation in July.
Thankfully, a friend stepped in to help and provided her with a $250 Whole Foods gift card.
So, she went to Whole Foods, but at the checkout counter realized she didn’t have enough money on the card to cover her items. That’s when the stranger in front of her stepped in.
“I had zero interaction with him before he decided to buy my groceries. I tried to put things back and he said, ‘I said I got this. All of this. Don’t put anything back!’ recounts Gwyn-Jaramillo. “He started putting the stuff I was going to put back onto the conveyor belt. I was stunned.”
Gwyn-Jaramillo says she responded to the “nice-looking man,” by “crying.”
“I finally managed to say ‘What is your name?’ and introduce myself. He said, simply, ‘Chris,’ and shook my hand,” Gwyn-Jaramillo recounted. She spoke with the stranger after his kind deed, telling CBS News, the man asked her about her rescue dogs after noticing dog food on the conveyor belt.
‘I talked to him through my tears and finally asked, ‘Who ARE you?’ says Gwyn-Jaramillo. “He looked at me and said ‘Just a person. Just a guy.’ I kept thinking, ‘Does he know? Does he know he’s an angel? ”
It turns out the stranger was not, in fact, “just a guy,” after all.
Gwyn-Jaramillo said while he looked familiar, and says she is a fan of the Grammy-winning rapper, she didn’t place him until a cashier filled her in.
“WHAT I screamed,” Gwyn-Jaramillo told CBS News. “People were smiling and laughing (and probably rolling their eyes that I just now ‘got it’ about who he was).”
She says she was inspired to write, a now viral, Facebook post about her encounter.
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 shit. 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 fucked. 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. “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.” Wait. What. 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. He left. 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.” Beautiful girl, you have no idea. Ludacris. This guy is awesome run amok. You know why? He was just doing something kind for a disheveled, harried stranger. Showing the love in his soul. Shining a light in the world. But there’s something else. What Ludacris had no way of knowing is that I can’t really afford to shop at Whole Foods. Not much, anyway. I was there because Miracle Mary gave me a gift card and knew I’d been shouldering a very rough time as of late. 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? I think it is. Be like Ludacris y’all. I know I’m gonna do it. Pay it forward. We can, every one of us, do SOMEthing for others. You never know a stranger’s full story when you reach out a hand and yank them into a better place. Thank you, Chris. God bless you.
“This event taught me something I thought I already knew. It taught me the true power of being kind to strangers. He’s probably done this hundreds of time. But I couldn’t forget it,” Gwyn-Jaramillo said.
The Georgia-based writer explained that the encounter has had lasting effects on her, and hopes the story will encourage others to be kind,”The gift he gave me, the lesson, will long last after the groceries are gone.