Alabama food blogger Stacey Little reminds us that a little kindness can go a long way during the holiday season.

Stacey Little

Last week, I ran into the grocery store for a few things I needed to bake some cookies. I was cruising down the aisle when I passed a mother with two little girls. I’m guessing they were about four and six years old. I don’t normally find myself critiquing people’s clothing, but I noticed that the girls’ clothes were obviously worn, but clean. It’s not odd to find unusual characters in the discount grocery store where I shop (yes, I shop at a discount grocery store), but this little family got my attention.

They were standing near the snack cake section as the mother was figuring her total on a calculator. As I scanned over the juice aisle, I heard one little girl ask her mom, “Mama, can we get some oatmeal pies this time?” Her mother replied, “Baby, I’m just not sure we can afford it…but put them in the basket and we’ll see.” The comment provoked a request from the smaller girl: “Ooooo, Mama, if we get to get prizes this trip can I please have some chocolate syrup? You know how much I love chocolate milk, Mama!” Her mother replied, “Okay, sweetheart. Get some and we’ll see.”

I got my juice and went along my way, grabbing things from each aisle and marking off my list. I passed the little family several times and we exchanged smiles as I watched her diligently choosing her groceries. Turning the corner and finding a place in the line at the register, I ended up right behind the mother and her two girls. She carefully placed her items on the belt – eggs, canned biscuits, oranges, bagged salad, some frozen veggies, meat – but held the oatmeal cream pies and chocolate syrup as the very last things to go on the belt. I watched as they seemed to keep a running total in their heads. The anxious anticipation on the girls' faces made it obvious that they had been here before. As the cashier rang up the last item before the snack cakes and chocolate syrup, their mother asked the cashier for a total. “$35.80,” the cashier said. I saw the utter defeat in the mother’s face as she turned to her babies and said, “Y’all, I’m sorry. We just don’t have enough this trip. Maybe next time." The girls’ looks of excitement turned to disappointment, but I could tell, again, they had been here before. The cashier placed the snack cakes and syrup aside and bagged the other groceries. The mother paid for her groceries and placed them in her cart. The two girls trailed along as they left.

When I got to the cashier, I asked for the cakes and chocolate syrup. There was no one in line behind me, so I asked if she could hold my other stuff for just a moment. I paid for the girls’ goodies and raced out to meet their mother at the cart corral. I handed her the bag and said, “I want your girls to have this. I know things are tight and I want you to know that it will get better. Sometimes it seems like it won’t but it will, I promise. It wasn’t too many years ago that I was in your shoes. Basic necessities were all we had money for, so I know.” She seemed a bit embarrassed. “Things are so hard for us right now – around Christmas, you know.” I nodded. “I know. I’ve been there. But keep your head up. You’re doing the right thing for your girls,” I told her. “Thank you,” she said. “Merry Christmas,” I said.

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Our world is hurting. The tense social and political climates have us being so critical of one another. Do me a favor? Make an effort to see the good in folks this holiday season. We all have our struggles. We all are fighting something. And when the world has turned you cold, try to be better than that. Know the joy of helping someone who can do nothing for you. Offer a random act of kindness. Donate to a food pantry. Help a neighbor. Invite someone who is lonely to your holiday celebration. We all need reminders every now and then. This mama and her girls were my reminder. This is yours.

One of the ways that I always enjoy sharing the holiday spirit with my friends and neighbors is by cooking for them. These Chewy Gingerbread Cookies with Eggnog Drizzle are the perfect treat that you can make to share. They’re easy to prepare, require no refrigerating of the dough, and are amazingly delicious. I know your friends and neighbors will just love them.

Get Stacey Little's recipe for Chewy Gingerbread Cookies with Eggnog Drizzle

Blogger and Wall Street Journal best-selling author Stacey Little is committed to getting folks back to the table for dinner. His quick and easy recipes are helping busy families get a home-cooked meal on the table without a lot of hassle or expense. Southern Living Magazine has repeatedly named Stacey a top blogger to follow and a favorite Southern blogger. He has appeared on The Today Show and Fox and Friends and has lent his talents to national brands like Betty Crocker, White Lily, Martha White, Kraft, Queen Latifah, and Reese Witherspoon—just to name a few. Today, his easy, delicious recipes and heartfelt stories have brought tens of millions to his blog, SouthernBite.com, since he created it in 2008. Stacey's cookbook, The Southern Bite Cookbook, is available at book retailers across the country and online. Stacey's deep Southern roots have him firmly planted in central Alabama where he lives with his wife, little boy, two dogs, and his collection of cast iron skillets.