I just read this story in "Life is a Verb" by Patti Digh. I loved it so much I thought that I would share it here:
I was in line at the Giant Food supermarket in Washington, D.C., when a woman ahead of me in line was buying some basic foods, a very few items, including a package of the cheapest, fattiest meat I had ever seen.
As the cashier got closer and closer to the end of ringing up her 8 items, she kept asking for the subtotal and digging into her small change purse, realizing as the meat made its sad journey up the conveyer belt behind the turnips that she could never afford it. She lacked $1.07 and with the saddest eyes I had ever seen, told the cashier to put it back. I couldn’t bear it. “Excuse me, M’am,” I said as I bent down between my cart and the chewing gum display, “you must have dropped this five dollar bill.”
The only reason I had the presence of mind to do that was having read earlier that week about a millionaire who gives money to people in real need by pretending to find it on the floor or street, as if they have dropped it. It is a way for him to give without appearing to be the overlord of giving, the grand poobah of cash, without taking credit for the gift, without assuming the power that sometimes comes with giving.
It saves face. And puts the impulse for giving and helping where it should be.