February was a rough month for many Texans, who saw power outages, uncharacteristically cold temperatures, water turnoffs and the barest store shelves since the COVID pandemic began.
But from the middle of that very cold week on Feb. 16 comes a story that has warmed hearts. The tale began to circulate online, with individuals posting accounts of their experience at a beloved grocery store.
One post by TR Henny (Tim Hennessy) quickly went viral. He told how he and his wife, Deb, had braved icy conditions before the next wave of storms to try to get food at their nearby H-E-B supermarket in Leander, Texas.
As you might expect, the going was rough. The line just to enter the store was long, and Tim Hennessy knew the pickings would be slim.
The trip progressed as expected until 15 minutes in, when the store lost power.
“Halfway through our shopping the stores power went out,” Hennessy posted on Facebook. “It was still light out as it was only about 3:30pm. We kept shopping as hundreds of other people were too.
“I told Deb let’s hurry in case they tell us we must stop shopping and check out right away. We were picking up some milk and other items for other family members too and wanted to be sure we got everything we went there for.”
Within about 10 minutes, an employee asked them to head toward the front of the store, telling them, “We’ll check everyone out as quickly as we can as we have a process for these kinds of things.”
They waited in line for a while, along with an estimated several hundred other shoppers, but the line was moving slowly. After about 20 minutes, it started to proceed much faster.
“In a few minutes, we were asked to move to the next checkout aisle that was open,” Hennessy posted. “We got to the checkout woman and she asked: ‘Do you have any alcohol?’ I said: ‘No, but if you are giving out drinks, I could use one about now.’
What the employee said next momentarily confused the Hennessys: “Please go ahead but we can’t bag anything up for you,” according to the Facebook post.
The Hennessys asked how they should pay, and Tim wrote that they must have had “a couple hundred dollars worth of groceries,” but the store employee’s response floored them: “Just go ahead and be safe driving home.”
“Then we noticed the lines of people after the checkout stands proceeding with full carts of groceries all being directed out the store with many employees there to greet us on our way out.
“Deb began tearing up which always gets me teared up too — as we could not believe the generosity of H.E.B. and the kindness of that wonderful gesture. They could just as easily asked us all to leave the store as soon as the power went out and asked us to just leave the groceries in the carts.
“But instead, they allowed people to continue to shop for another 10-15 minutes after the power went out and then let everyone leave the store without so much as a single dollar being asked for from the hundreds of people leaving the store.”
The Facebook post and the photo Tim Hennessy shared of people with their carts stocked with unbagged groceries heading out of the store have gone viral.
H-E-B was staying quiet about whether events had occurred the way Hennessy described, but the supermarket did give a short acknowledgment when someone pointedly asked them on Twitter if the story was true.
Hi Kelly, yes, this is a true story. Thanks!
— H-E-B (@HEB) February 18, 2021
Texans and former Texans piped up to say the story rang true and that they totally could see the company doing something like that. A few chimed in to say they or someone they knew had been at the same store and experienced the same generous outpouring.
It wasn’t just the supermarket that showed kindness, however. In the parking lot, another scene unfolded, according to CNN.
Perhaps stirred by H-E-B’s gift, patrons assisted one another in reaching and unloading their groceries.
One scene that stuck with Hennessy was a group of people — including himself — who helped push an older woman’s car out of an icy patch.
“This is the America that I know,” Hennessy posted on Facebook. “Despite all the negative we hear/see being reported daily in the news. America and most Americans are still kind, thoughtful, generous, and caring.”
Later, he told CNN that he and his wife were still reeling over the events of that outing, and that it ended much differently than they had expected.
“We just talked about, ‘Wow, what did we just witness?'” he recalled. “We both said, ‘Isn’t this funny how we almost regretted going there initially’ … (and) ‘oh this is gonna take an hour or longer to check out. Do we (need) the stuff we got; did we really have to get it today?’
“We will rightfully fade from the scene as quickly as we came in with this story, but hopefully with this genuine act of kindness by H-E-B and thousands just like this across this country that happens each and every single day, America is reminded why God put us all here.”
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