Bagging happiness


How a down-on-his-luck man found his calling in a grocery market.

Our church helps feed the homeless in one of the larger cities near Lamesa. I met Billy there the very first time I went to help out, and we've been friends ever since. Billy had always wanted an apartment and a dog-and things had worked out for him. He now had a job and a nice apartment, so I decided to bring him a puppy.

The way Billy got his job is one of the funniest stories I've ever heard. See, Billy was in a bicycle wreck 25 years ago that left him unable to remember things well and at times confused. But the one thing it didn't take from him was the ability to talk. Billy loved to talk. He could carry on a conversation with anyone, and he would talk for hours if you let him.

One day Billy wandered into a very large supermarket in town and watched as the people rang up baskets of groceries. He noticed there was always someone who sacked the groceries and took them out to the car for the customers. He also noticed that the grocery sackers got to talk to people all day long, and he thought that was great.

The next morning Billy showed up at the market with a blue shirt on and started sacking groceries. He walked up to the first register and began putting the cold stuff with the cold stuff and the bread in a sack of its own-talking to people all the while. The checkers assumed he was a new hire and asked his name. He told them Billy, and they asked why he didn't have a smock. He said no one had gotten him one, so they went to the back and brought him two new smocks. Billy worked all day sacking groceries, and other employees even called his name over the intercom for help with packages a few times.

Billy showed up for work again the next day. He was, of course, wearing a company-issued smock now, which made him look official to everyone, including the assistant manager who said hello to him as he passed. What a great job. All day long he could talk to people and they would listen. He got to see dozens of people and talk, and he loved to talk.

This went on every day for four weeks. Billy worked hard and developed a reputation for being the most reliable sacker in the store. He was always there, always friendly, always working and always talking. But-he wasn't actually employed by the store.

One day Billy was called to the manager's office and confronted about a complaint. It seemed that a few of the store's patrons had complained that Billy talked too much and they didn't like it. The manager gave Billy a warning.

Billy kept his conversations to a minimum for a few days. But it didn't last long. Eventually he couldn't help himself and started talking too much again. Once again he was called into the manager's office. This time he was told he was being let go. He had been warned once and now he wasn't going to be on the payroll at this large market anymore.

I went to the shelter the next Sunday. Billy seemed a bit down as I talked to him. I asked him what was wrong and he explained that he had been fired from his job. I was very curious, because I had no idea he'd ever had a job. When he told me the story I was amazed.

Eventually the supermarket figured out what had happened. When they went to write him his last paycheck, they discovered that he didn't work at the store but that for seven weeks he had sacked groceries every day but one. They discovered that he was very popular with the checkers, and they hired him back to be a welcome agent and hand out baskets as people entered the store.

I think that guy deserves a puppy.

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