A palpable silence fell over a small group of women when an unknown man approached the cashier counter at HRK and made an unusual request Thursday.
“There were quite a few people in the store when he walked in the door,” HRK owner Bernice Beach said. “I’d never seen him before.”
Beach said the man asked her if anyone had a layaway at her store.
“I said, ‘Yes, yes we do,’” Beach said, “and he said, ‘Well, I’d like to pay it off for them.’ So, I said, ‘Well, you want to pay it off for them that’s OK then,’ but like a dummy, of course I couldn’t find the layaway book. So I went to go get the ticket.”
The ticket was for $74 worth of Christmas gifts including some toy trucks and dogs.
“He was that sort of all-American average guy in his Carhartt jacket and blue jeans,” Beach said. “There was no halo over his head and he didn’t have a white beard, but I asked him if he wanted to know the name of the person on the ticket and he said he didn’t need to know.”
The man paid in cash then exited the store.
“After he left the ladies that were standing around were talking,” Beach said. “They were all kind of impressed. One asked, ‘Did we just hear what we thought we did?’ I said, ‘Sure enough,’ and another said, ‘Well that just renews my faith in mankind.’”
Beach contacted Marion resident Echo Penwell with the good news on Friday.
“When I first heard I just wanted to cry,” Penwell said. “I got this tingly felling all over that the good Lord had blessed me.”
She said she had no idea who might have performed the random act of kindness, but she felt so honored that she shared the story with family and friends immediately.
“I’ve heard of things like this happening in bigger cities but never in a small town like Marion,” Penwell said. “It gives me tingles every time I think about it, and it just makes me want to pass on that feeling to other people.”
The man and his motives remain holiday mysteries, but there is no mistaking Penwell’s appreciative message for him.
“God bless you,” she said. “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”