LESLIE CRISS: Stranger’s kindness a highlight of country vacation

Leslie Criss mug“Three things in human life are important: The first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.”
Henry James

“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”
William Arthur Ward

Several weeks ago I spent a week’s vacation on a fabulous farm in Yalobusha County just outside Coffeeville, the wonderful small Southern town from which the Criss family hails.

It’s where my great-grandparents lived, where my great-grandfather doctored the sick and delivered babies.

It’s where my grandfather and his four siblings grew up to become an engineer, a doctor, a dentist and teachers.

It’s where I spent many a summer with Criss cousins – catching fireflies and fish, riding bicycles and camping out.

Coffeeville captured a considerable chunk of my childhood. It is a place I hold close in my heart.

A trip into Coffeeville proper the first day of vacation landed us at the only place in town where one can purchase live bait. At the Feed & Seed, as it is aptly called, we sadly learned it had gotten too hot for the minnows and crickets and they’d all perished. That mieant a trip to the metropolis of Grenada was in our future if we planned to fish.

Before we left the Feed & Seed, I asked if there might be a place in town where I could buy a Coffeeville baseball cap. The proprietor looked at me as if I’d asked for all the money in the register.

“Nobody ever wants anything with Coffeeville on it,” she said. “Just Grenada maybe.”

I told her if she had a cap boasting the Coffeeville Feed & Seed, I’d purchase several – one for myself and more as gifts for other Coffeeville-loving Crisses.

Before heading for the country, we stopped at the Dollar General. My friend Cheryl asked an employee where the caps were since I’d left all mine in Tupelo. As she followed him, I found an Ole Miss cap I liked and headed for the register to pay.

Then I heard my name being called from another area of the store. I followed the sound and found Cheryl and the employee standing beside more caps – camouflage, John Deere and just plain one-color caps.

I showed them the Ole Miss cap and told them I was happy with it, then I walked away to pay for my purchase.

I could hear Cheryl talking with the employee, a manager trainee from Grenada named Floyd Miller. She told him about my family, my love for Coffeeville and my collection of baseball caps.

Per Mr. Miller’s instructions, I bought a plain beige cap and left it with him. Three days later I returned to the store as he’d asked. He was not working, but he’d left for me my cap. He had taken it to a place in Grenada and had the word

Coffeeville stitched on the front of the cap. He had my name added to the side.

I never had an opportunity to thank him for his generous gesture.

But that small kindness from a stranger means much.

Thank you, Floyd Miller. Thank you very much.

leslie.criss@journalinc.com