SEFFNER — The couple in the Winn-Dixie checkout line couldn't cover the cost of all the items they put on the conveyor belt.
So, one by one, they began to put them back.
Karla Gibson, admittedly wearing only her "house dress" and sporting "dirty hair," simply came in to get a few items. The delay offered Gibson the perfect opportunity to roll her eyes, sigh loudly and glare.
Instead, she leaned in and asked, "How much are they short?"
The cashier said $15, and Gibson agreed to make up the difference. Her 16-year-old son Chad knew his mom, unemployed as she transitions to a new career, really couldn't afford to pay for the extra items. But he didn't intervene.
"The funny thing is I am on unemployment and am not even working right now, so y'all pray for us, as well," Gibson shared with the couple.
They offered thanks and said, "God bless you."
As they left and Gibson paid for her own items, the store manager raced over and handed her a gift card for $15, thanking Gibson for her generosity.
"I said, 'Hey, we're all in this together, right?' "
The story typifies Gibson's drive to push through the grind of her daily trials and tribulations with random acts of kindness. Two years ago, she launched a page on Facebook called "25 Days of Kindness 2013." The single mother, grappling with a case of the holiday blues, decided she and her two sons would seek to do one random act of kindness from Dec. 1 to Dec. 25.
She laughs about how it didn't go well at first. Despite her insistence, one person refused when she offered to pay for her coffee. A man asking for money on the side of the road wanted Gibson's cash but didn't want to pose for a Facebook picture.
Eventually, the Gibson family hit its charitable stride. They volunteered at Metropolitan Ministries, handed out goodie bags to the homeless and paid for customers behind them in the checkout line. Even holding the door for a person or saying hello to a stranger counted.
The page also gained traction, and she extended the movement well past the Christmas holidays. The page continues today as a place for Gibson to post her own stories and for others to share news about humanity's better side.
Now Gibson, 50, hopes to use her lapse in employment to write a book about the best stories from her kindness campaign. They include joining a friend who dressed in a bunny suit and handed out boxes of Little Caesars pizza to people who were homeless one Easter Sunday, and randomly buying coffee for other Starbucks customers on her birthday — an act that led to one of the customers finding a job.
Her message is a simple one.
"Pay attention to each other, smile at each other, make eye contact," Gibson said. "I really believe that we're tied together by much more than race, income, rich, poor, whatever. We're all people. If we're honest, we're all good people."
Gibson matches her big heart with equal doses of genuine humility and self-deprecating humor. She frets about being unemployed, jokes about her boyfriend dumping her and laments about not having a pool. But she's quick to point out she's grateful for what she does have, including two loving sons.
Most of all, she says she's not special.
"I do this not to call attention to me, but to call attention to a higher power," Gibson said. "(Helping others) brightens your spirit. It makes you feel like you're worthwhile. I don't always feel that way."
Gibsons's giving surely has generated no shortage of gratitude, but I hope she realizes her greatest gift is instilling inspiration in others to be just as kind.
That's all I'm saying.