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To the Donut Shop Owner Whose Crazy Act of Kindness Helped My Sick Friend

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Dear Marge,

My natural inclination toward frugality only allows a donut when the neon Krispy Kreme sign beckons with the offer of a free one. I haven’t partaken in ages, though, because five bites of pleasure fail to outweigh the embarrassment of taking the freebie without further purchase, violating some unnamed principle of thrift. Despite rarely eating anything I haven’t bought in bulk and cooked in my own kitchen, I visited your shop a couple of years back, discovering your donuts shame Krispy Kreme’s in both size and taste.

My friend, Pam, used to sell items online, specializing in American Girl dolls. Each year she’d purchase discontinued goods at a steep discount, storing them to resell at Christmastime when demand peaked. Pam stayed home with her girls. Selling on eBay made a great home business and supported her daughters’ American Girl habit.

Whenever I’d see Pam at church, we’d catch up, bragging about recent bargains (Pam loved and celebrating notable sales in our online shops. So when I learned of her terminal cancer diagnosis, making a meal or sending a card didn’t spring to mind (I’m horrible about sending cards), but “She needs me to sell her things” did.

I picked up a carload of dolls and doll outfits she’d been intending to list and helped organize her storage room. We went through household detritus, thankful for the attention the task required. Pam opened a giant Rubbermaid tote and fingered a baby outfit, remarking wistfully, “I planned to make a quilt from Ava’s things, but now I never will.” We both cried. Our church had a quilting group. A few phone calls found a sweet woman — aptly named Sugar — eager to tackle the project Pam could not. People from church brought meals, took the girls to music lessons, prayed and supported the family in myriad ways. A line from a sermon that touched me deeply shortly after learning of my own son’s autism diagnosis comforted Pam, too: “This is not all there is.” The loving embrace of a church family in a time of need is no small matter.

But Marge, what you did was no small matter, either.

I administered Pam’s eBay account, but, overwhelmed by the number of doll outfits and despairing they might not all sell online by Christmas, I placed a free ad in the newspaper. The first caller wanted a doll, not just an outfit. I received just one other inquiry — from you, Marge — also wanting a complete doll for your granddaughter. When I explained my motive for selling, you asked, “How many outfits do you have?” Then, undeterred by the quantity, offered, “Take them to Marge’s Donut Den. I’ll buy them all.” You hadn’t wanted a single outfit, let alone a pile of them.

My friend, Pam

So my friend, Tammy, and I headed to your shop, stopping at every thrift store on the way (I like to combine trips and always need more inventory for my own online shop). Along with payment you included two gift certificates for Pam’s family and a donut for me and my friend. I wasn’t embarrassed to get these freebies. You treated us as if we’d done you a favor, not the other way around.

Wanting Pam to know you cared but not wanting her to feel like a charity case, I opted not to tell her why you bought the outfits. She appreciated the certificates and insisted I keep one. A few months later, Tammy and I made another thrift store run, picking up a dozen donuts with the gift certificate en route. I won’t admit how many we ate (I adore apple fritters), but, while we savored them in the Goodwill parking lot, a life-worn man loaded his purchases into a rusty pickup. I rolled down my window. “Want a donut?”

Perhaps donuts engender trust. You believed my story about the outfits — enough to spend quite a bit to bless someone you didn’t even know — and the man in the parking lot threw caution to the wind, eating a donut from a pair of strangers.

I’m more of a procrastinator than a card writer, which is a poor excuse. But here’s my shamefully belated thank you. Pam thought you were crazy buying all those outfits. When you’re so giving that people wonder, it speaks volumes.

I don’t know if big donuts make big hearts or if big hearts make big donuts, but there must be a correlation. There must.



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Originally published: April 29, 2015
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