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My unsung hero: The grocery store bagger with a hug at the right time

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

As our nation struggled with political divisions and COVID casualties, it might help to remember people who showed kindness when we've needed it most. Such people are the focus of a new podcast from the team at Hidden Brain. It's called "My Unsung Hero." And in this excerpt, Terri Powers of Fredericksburg, Va., tells of how she met her unsung hero in December of 2018. Her mother, DeRae Wilson, had passed away days earlier. She went to the grocery store to pick up a few things.

(SOUNDBITE OF PODCAST, "MY UNSUNG HERO")

TERRI POWERS: And I was, of course, feeling lots of emotions. But there was this numbness that prevailed over everything just so I could get through the day and take care of the tasks I needed to take care of. So I go to the checkout, and the cashier greets me with, how are you? And I just couldn't say fine or good and brush it off like that. I just felt I needed to say, you know what? I'm not doing great. My mother just passed away. And she responded, expressed her sympathy, and we finished up the transaction.

So I turned to get my bag to leave, and the young man who had bagged my groceries looked me right in the eye and said, can I give you a hug? And so I said yes. And we hugged, and that was it - just a hug. But it wasn't just a hug. This man stood there and observed and listened and then reacted and gave the one thing that is the most beautiful expression of comfort and caring that you can give another person.

And it was the most healing hug I think I've received in a long time, and it made such a difference for me that day. And I think about him often and what a warm and giving an empathetic person he is. And I want to tell him thank you so, so very much for making a difference for me that day with that one simple, powerful gesture. Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIMON: Terri Powers of Fredericksburg, Va. To share the story of your unsung hero with the Hidden Brain team, you can record a voice memo on your phone and send it to myunsunghero@hiddenbrain.org.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.