A Chico story

Kindness can be found here in the strangest of places

I was sitting on the curb outside of Safeway on Mangrove with my mournful springer spaniel. My wife was inside shopping, leaving me and the dog behind.

A woman came out of the store carrying a 15-pound bag of dog food. Halfway to her car she glanced in our direction. Perhaps we seemed forlorn. Or homeless. She paused, then headed straight to us. She had a wonderful face, full of concern. She said to me, “Would your dog like this bag of dog food?”

I was deeply embarrassed. I wanted to wave her away, but I realized I must honor her generosity. “Oh, please, no,” I said. “We’re just sitting here while my wife is in the store.”

A humble man and his hungry dog, she thought. She insisted on offering us her dog food. I was hemmed in by her kindness. What if my wife came out just then and caught us accepting free dog food. “No, really,” I insisted. “We have plenty of food at home. It’s so nice of you, but we really don’t need anything.”

She was dubious. I said, “Actually, I work at the university and we’re doing just fine.” She scrutinized me. “Dean Heinz? Is that you? I’m sure I’ve often seen you, and I actually worked at the university, too, though I’m now retired.” “Me too,” I said.

I jumped to my feet and gave her a hug. She hugged me back. My dog, Livingston, watched all this curiously and perhaps with lament. We talked briefly about life on campus. She headed back to her car, satisfied and happy. Me too.

Then my wife arrived and I knew this was a story too good not to tell. She was from the university, too. She wondered if I had been looking unusually pathetic. For one thing, she would never have sat on the curb. But if you never sit on the street, you miss part of the Chico story.