The woman who enriched Bob Parrish’s Christmas disappeared so quickly it was almost as though she had never been there at all.
But Parrish had only to look at his most unexpected gift to remind himself of how real she was.
It happened a week or so ago inside Safeway.
Parrish, 71, who is partially disabled, was shopping.
He accidentally knocked some items from a display rack, and when he hunkered down to replace them he made the problem worse rather than better.
My balance is really bad,” said Parrish, who has lived in Baker City since 2006.
While he was bent down trying to clean up, a woman walked over.
“She noticed I was having trouble,” Parrish said. “She says, ‘leave’em, I will get them.’ ”
Parrish, being of the stubborn sort, insisted he could deal with his own mess.
“I like to say that I’m disabled, not crippled,” he said.
He put the items back and headed for the next aisle.
While he was perusing the shelves he noticed the same woman approaching.
She extended her hand over his shoulder, and Parrish, as much from reflex as anything else, accepted the gift card she was offering.
Then she left — “disappeared,” as Parrish puts it.
He tucked the gift card, which was for Safeway, into his pocket and then almost forgot about it while he finished shopping.
Later, at home, he remembered the card.
Curious, but expecting a value of maybe $5, Parrish pulled out the card and looked closely.
“It was 75 dollars,” he said, the shock of that moment still palpable, in the volume of his voice, more than a week later and even with the attenuating effects of a phone line.
Parrish said he was stunned not only by the amount of the gift, but also because it didn’t seem to him that the woman was well off.
Indeed, he said his impression was that she might well have an income as fixed as his own.
Parrish said that at 71 he might have thought he was beyond surprises.
But now he knows better.
“I’ve had (surprises), but nothing like this,” he said. “I wonder how many people in this world are walking around handing out 75-dollar gift certificates?”
Kathy Olsen can’t answer that question, but she has her own recent experience with generosity to bask in this holiday season.
Olsen, 66, doesn’t drive.
She gets around on foot, generally pushing a four-wheeled cart.
Not long ago one of the wheels stopped rolling smoothly.
Olsen, who lived in Baker City from 1989 to 2006 and then moved back in 2016, ordered a new wheel from Ace Hardware, where she shops frequently.
She said the store didn’t charge her for the wheel, and an employee installed it on her cart.
But it still didn’t work as well as it had.
Early last week she got a phone call from Ace, asking her to stop by.
When she got to the store employees presented Olsen with a new cart.
“I was really shocked,” Olsen said. “I thanked them up and down.”