Leslee Morris often fights what she believes is genetic pessimism as a descendant of those who lived through the Great Depression. The COVID-19 has exacerbated those concerns about health as a senior and surviving on a somewhat fixed income.
Still, the admissions director of Torah Day School said she tries to give to others and hopes that “the more generous I am toward others, the more generous Hashem will be with me,” she told the AJT. “A few days prior to the start of Pesach, very purposefully, I told my husband that I was determined to enter the holiday with a feeling of bounty and blessings.”
Still, what happened at the grocery story during “senior” hour Wednesday, April 8, the morning before the first Passover seder, left her stunned.
Morris said she went out of her way to be friendly and appreciative of the workers stocking the shelves that morning at the store. Wearing a mask and armed with hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes, she loaded up her cart with $140 of Passover groceries.
“As I approached the check-out area, I complimented the cashier saying that I could ‘see’ her good morning smile in her eyes, which was all I could see of her mask-covered face. Carefully I loaded my groceries, wiped down the credit card keypad and prepared to pay for my groceries. Before I could remove my credit card from my wallet, the cashier handed me my receipt. I’m quite certain I looked rather perplexed. I said, ‘Don’t I need to pay you first?’ At that point she quietly said that my groceries were paid for.
“‘What do you mean?’ was my confused response. I have never before been treated with this type of generosity. I looked around and didn’t see anyone else looking as surprised as I was (not that there were many shoppers at that early hour). Everyone seemed to be sleep walking.”
Afterwards, none of the other shoppers spoke about their shared experience of receiving free groceries, she said. “Nobody knew what happened. They were still processing it. It was so bizarre,” Morris said.
“Honestly, I didn’t know what to make of it. The receipt indicated that the groceries were paid by an [Atlanta] angel. Was I being rewarded for my generosity, for my friendliness, my appreciation? Or was Hashem providing me with a financial cushion? I left the store in total amazement and appreciation.”
Morris said that before she learned who bought her groceries, “I felt that whatever I gave to other people came back, … ended up in my lap. It was a clear message.”
Only later did she learn that the “angel” was Atlanta’s Tyler Perry, a media mogul and talented film producer and actor. “But I think he’s an agent of G-d’s. He believes that as well, I assume. So while I owe a debt of gratitude to Mr. Perry, I also must say, thank you Hashem. Thank you for my beautiful, restful, inspiring and bountiful Passover.”
Morris said she knew about Perry’s philanthropy, which stemmed from having been homeless at one point. “I actually feel like I need to write a thank you note to him. It was very special and timed perfectly.” She was referring to the stress and expense involved with preparing for Passover and coping with the health crisis.
As it turned out, Morris was among many senior and high-risk Kroger shoppers in metro Atlanta April 8 who received a similar surprise when they learned that Perry paid their grocery tab in full. “We would like to join our customers in thanking Mr. Perry for his kindness and generosity during this unprecedented pandemic,” Felix Turner, manager of corporate affairs for Kroger’s Atlanta division, said in a press release. “It was truly a pleasure to see our customers fill with joy and gratitude as the news spread throughout 44 stores across metro Atlanta.”