One Small Voice: A cardinal act of mercy saves kidney

by Lynn Mandaville

I’m really not one who does things to attract attention to myself.

Sure, on the written page, I can be a big mouth.  I bristle at all forms of human injustice, and the politics of the past six years has quite riled me up.

But in my day-to-day life, I’m rather reserved, sometimes even shy.

So it is that I don’t make public scenes, and if something goes a bit contrary to the way in which I would prefer it were going, I usually take a breath, consider my Ma’s philosophy of “will it matter three days from now?” and move on.

In that vein I travel through life somewhat anonymously.  And that’s fine with me.

Then yesterday happened.

I’m currently recovering from my third bout with kidney stone surgery in as many months, and this last one really took all the popcorn out of me, as Pop used to say.

But after a week of recovery, I went in to do my normal volunteer shift in library circulation, forgetting that it was immediately following the July 4th holiday, and the delivery I would be processing would be twice the normal load I’m used to, even in full health.

Tired though I was afterward, I had to make a stop for groceries on the way home.  And it was a long list.

On the list were items that I don’t usually buy, so it meant searching all over the store, back and forth, up and down the aisles to locate the whole wheat tortillas, and so on.

After an hour I finally got to the register to check out.

The cashier rang up everything, and I put in my debit card (the store deals only with debit and cash), and my card was declined.

Well, my right kidney was throbbing by this time, and all I wanted to do was cash out and go home to my comfy chair, but even two more tries with the card didn’t get me any closer to home.

I don’t make fusses over these types of things, even with a throbbing kidney.  It’s not the cashier’s fault my card was declined.  Why would I want to make her life miserable?

I had a hunch what had happened.

I had made a couple of purchases online over the weekend, one of which happened to be through a bank in the UK.

My bank immediately issued a fraud alert on my phone, and I was certain I had followed all the prompts to put the alert to rest, but clearly something was still wrong with my account.

So, although the store manager – a sweet young thing in her 40s – had tried a work-around so I could check out, it was no dice.

Okay, I thought, I’ll just sit here in Customer Service on one of the nice rideable grocery carts and call the United Bank back in good of Michigan.  They can straighten out everything and I can be on my way.

But as I sat listening to the menu of choices for service, I glanced at the clock, and it was 2:30 in AZ, meaning it was 5:30 in MI, and the bank was closed.

I did a little sigh to myself, then approached the manager with my sincerest apologies that all those groceries were going to have to be reshelved.

“No problem!” she said brightly.  “We can bag up all your stuff and put it in the cooler with your name on it so you can pay for it and pick it up tomorrow after you square things away with your bank!”

I was thrilled that there was such an easy solution, so I headed back to the checkout lane where my $150 worth of groceries lay waiting patiently.

As I started bagging things up with the manager, a young man approached me.

He couldn’t possibly have been older than 30, but I’m not so good at estimating ages anymore. 

Anyway, he apologized for eavesdropping, but he was aware that I had all these groceries, a debit card that had been declined, and not enough cash in my wallet to cover the bill. 

He said he wanted to buy my groceries for me.

I’m not accustomed to not paying my own way.

We don’t carry a balance on any credit cards, we own our home and car outright, and we’re just plain uncomfortable being beholden.

So, I thanked him for his kind gesture, but I couldn’t possibly accept his offer.

He insisted.  All my stuff was right there, now nicely all bagged up and ready to go in my car.  “Please,” he said, “let me do this for you.”

“No, I couldn’t possibly,” I said back.  “It’s $150 worth of stuff!  Your thoughtfulness is appreciated, but no, I couldn’t possibly let you do that.”

He persisted.

My kidney throbbed.

But my conscience kept saying, “You can’t take advantage of this young man.  He can’t afford this much money for an old woman’s groceries.”

“It’s very sweet of you, but no, I have to decline your offer.  It’s just too much.”

“But it’s only $150,” he said.  

I hemmed and I hawed, and my kidney had the final word.  I accepted this act of incredible kindness and generosity, trying to figure out what I could do to repay him.

I asked him his name.

“Nick,” he said.

“Same as my first son,” I told him.

“See, it’s a sign this is meant to be,” he said with a dazzling smile.

I promised him that once I had my debit card problem straightened out in the morning that I would make a donation to Chef Andre’s World Central Kitchen (WCK) in his honor for the amount of the groceries.

He’d never heard of WCK, so I explained how it feeds for free millions of people all over the world who are in crisis from war or natural disasters.  I told him we had already given $250 in relief to WCK when the war in Ukraine started.

It was then that he seemed to understand the fullness of my honoring him with such a donation.

Which I did first thing this morning.

Nick, wherever you are in Chandler, AZ, you lifted my heart a thousand miles high.

I may carry on about the failings of our government, the Congress, the Supreme Court, even President Biden.

I may rant and rave about our so-called leaders when they show a willful ignorance toward certain issues.

I forget that the true goodness about our nation is not in the higher-ups, but in we “lower-downs,” the day-to-day folks who tend to be, by nature, very good-hearted.

The true goodness of America is in her people.

I may have left MI six years ago, but the greater Phoenix area where Chandler lies is full of fellow migrants from the Midwest, with the same values of basic human kindness I left behind.

When I am tempted to turn on the human race during dark periods in the future, I will keep in mind the handsome face of Nick with its radiant smile, and I will be feeling the power his act of kindness has had upon me.

There may be no joy in Mudville (where mighty Casey struck out), but there is great joy in Chandler today.

I have not yet stopped smiling, from my comfortable chair, where my kidney has finally stopped throbbing!


  • What a beautiful occasion to share and a wonderful reminder!! I hope your kidney stones will be gone soon. Be well.

  • What a beautiful story and life lesson. The generosity of a total stranger, Nick, is a great example of all the “good” people there still are amongst us in our world.
    Hope you are feeling much better.

  • Lynn, sorry you’re dealing with kidney stones. From experience, I know they can be majorly uncomfortable and very painful. But they too shall pass.
    And I’m so thankful you shared your story. One of those tales to cherish that restores our faith and reminds us that there is still kindness when and where we least expect it

  • Ms. Mandaville,
    So sorry to read of your reoccurring kidney problem, they are not pleasant to say the least. It is good, very good you can put a positive spin on a very painful situation, a good deed indeed on Nick’s part and an uplifting story. Get better the world is a better place with a healthy Ms. Mandaville in it.

    • Mr. Traxler,
      Thank you for your kind words. Tackling life’s speedbumps is hard enough. Thank goodness for experiences like this one to help keep proper perspective in a world on fire!

  • Ms. Mandaville, thank you for sharing this beautiful story about generosity and kindness. Good deeds and good works truly do happen all around us every day. But we seldom take time to notice or to celebrate them. Back in 1956, Earl Nightingale’s award-winning recording, “The Strangest Secret,” counseled his listeners that “we become what we think about.” Hopefully we’ll be able to read and to think about many more positive stories from you and from other columnists in the weeks ahead. Bravo!

  • One winter, at the Harding’s in Wayland, a woman paid my entire grocery order. My husband was laid off. It was all the food for our Christmas dinner. And a woman grabbed me up in a hug, told me not to make a scene, and paid the entire order. I, obviously, have never forgotten this Christmas miracle story. And I am so glad you had something like it happen to you. Doesn’t it just make your heart leap and keep a smile on your face? Hope you feel better very soon!

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