Sense of Decency

Listening to others, seeing things through their eyes.

Hungry Howie. Photo © Michelle Gabel 2015.


It was a few minutes after the pizza joint opened at 11 a.m. on a dreary Monday morning in Middle America.

I pulled the rental SUV into a parking space in the the empty lot, transferred a $5 bill from my wallet to my front pocket and pulled up a photo of my son’s dog on my phone.

I fully expected to get tossed as soon as I went in, a quick heave-ho.

Maybe the place has had trouble lately, and I had to push a red button next to the front door to enter. A woman behind the counter buzzed me in, probably wondering who the hell wants a slice of chain pizza at 11:05 on a Monday morning in Michigan.

I’ve never been good at first impressions, or second ones for that matter. No one’s ever accused me of being smooth.

“Can I help you?” asked the 40-ish woman, rote-like. (I’m also bad at guessing ages, so 40-ish may be way off).

I told her I didn’t want anything to eat and had a “strange request,” and started to tell her why I was there.

She looked annoyed, possibly worried. She really didn’t need a problem from some old dude first thing after opening up.

I told her that my son used to lived in the Midwest, had named his dog after the pizza chain, that the dog had recently had surgery and I was just hoping to bring back some napkins or something, anything, bearing the name of the chain, as a gift.

I didn’t have a photo of 7-year-old Howie wearing the “cone of shame” to keep him from messing with the surgery site, but I showed her my phone with an Instagram photo of him as an incredibly cute puppy, complete with a caption proving the origin of his name.

The woman absolutely melted.

“Oh no, what kind of surgery?”

“Torn ACL.”

“Poor baby! Our napkins are generic, but let me see what else I can find!”

With that, she went into overdrive, scurrying around the kitchen for whatever she could get her hands on, a cardboard drink carrier, packets of cheese and pepper — “Wait, you said you had grandkids? How many? We can’t leave them out!” — and coloring books and boxes of crayons.

“Do you want a bag for all of that?” she asked, then found one and happily pointed out that even the cheap plastic bag bore the name of the chain.

I thanked her profusely, handed her the $5 bill and told her she had made my day.

Back home a few days later, I gave my son and daughter-in-law the bag of goodies and relayed the story, adding details of the woman’s appearance and my curiosity about her — she was very, very thin and had no front teeth. I couldn’t help but think she has had a very tough life, no doubt struggling to make ends meet working in a pizza shop.

And here she was, bestowing kindness on some random person who didn’t even buy anything, gleefully conspiring in a surprise for people she didn’t know and will never meet.

Yes, she made my day. But as my son said, “You probably made hers, too.” 

I think he’s right. And that speaks volumes about this woman and the goodness within her, despite whatever assumptions people make based on her appearance or her occupation. When I think about this woman, all I remember is the pure joy she found in being kind.

In the end, nothing else matters.

Jim McKeever is a co-founder of Sense of Decency.

11 thoughts on “Go ahead, make my day

  1. Jim McKeever says:

    Reblogged this on Jim McKeever and commented:

    The woman at the counter looked annoyed, possibly worried. She really didn’t need a problem from some old dude first thing after opening up.


    1. Nina Wickett says:

      Awww… This is beautiful! 💜

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Jim McKeever says:

        Thank you, Nina!


  2. Rose Viviano says:

    Jim, your writing always makes my day too. -rose

    Liked by 1 person

  3. migabel says:

    I finally read this and love it!

    Sent from my iPhone


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    Liked by 1 person

  4. Jim McKeever says:

    Thank you, Michelle, and your photo of Howie is wonderful!


    1. Janet says:



  5. Phil says:

    Now that brought a tear to my eye–and made me smile too! Great piece!!


    1. Jim McKeever says:

      Thank you very much, Phil.


  6. erminerose says:

    Thank you for this beautiful story, Jim. I agree, sharing love and kindness is why we are here.


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