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The Heart of America: Texas Grocery Store Loses Power, Lets Customers Leave Without Paying

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
May 15, 2023 3:02 am

The Heart of America: Texas Grocery Store Loses Power, Lets Customers Leave Without Paying

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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May 15, 2023 3:02 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, listener Tim Hennessey talks about his viral Facebook post that exemplifies the everyday goodness in this country.

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Send them to They are truly some of our favorites. When there was a break in the deep freeze that swept across Texas in February of 2021, Tim Hennessey and his wife, Deb, piled into his Jeep and headed for H-E-B, a beloved grocery store chain for many Texans. It has almost a cult-like following. Tim shared his story on his Facebook page and it immediately went viral. Tim, who's a big fan of our show, contacted us to see if we'd think our listeners would want to hear it. And we, of course, said yes. Here's Tim with a story he and his wife entitled The Heart of America.

Very quick background. I'm originally from Chicago and we lived there many years. And then we moved to my wife and I, Deb, moved to California in 1993 for an opportunity. And it seemed like California was kind of like the heyday for California.

Things are moving. Things are pretty good for us there. We lived there 23 years. And then three or four years ago, my kids decided to move to Houston and they basically said, you know, we just can't afford to live in California. The best we could do is get an apartment for $2,500 a month.

And it was just too expensive and they didn't want to be house poor. So they moved to Texas and tore our heart out, really, honestly. And we found ourselves sitting in California at home. We still have a son who's in California.

We found one day, we found ourselves sitting there going, what are we doing here? We have a grandson in Houston. And we kind of, you know, we love California, the beauty, the weather.

It's kind of hard. There's very few places in the entire world you're going to get that kind of beauty and weather and stuff. And we thought it's the best of both worlds. We moved to Texas. We have a lot more freedom than we have in California.

We can save a lot more money before we retire and we get to see our grandkids every single day. So a few years ago, we decided to move. And, you know, I find people are nice everywhere you live.

You know, I think it's what you focus on. There's good people everywhere. But there's a level of niceness in Texas with people that kind of struck us as soon as we moved here. It's almost like, why are you so nice to us?

What's your agenda? And it's a different kind of nice. And so that kind of niceness we recognized everywhere. Yes, sir. No, sir. Yes, ma'am.

No, ma'am. And the people wherever we go are just a different level of nice. So right around February 20th, 21, somewhere in there, 2021, it was a historic storm here in Texas, 15 degrees or below, closer to zero, a couple days for a whole week. And Texas is just not built for that. When I live in Chicago, they had snowplows, they had salt for the roads. Here, they're not built for it. They don't have that kind of stuff because it's rarely that cold.

Usually, maybe it gets down to 30 degrees. Power was going out for four days off and on. Every couple of hours it was out. The hardest part was when the water went out because you start thinking to yourself, okay, this is getting real now. How long is this water going to be out?

Is this a day, two days, three days, a week? You know, you start thinking these stories of people don't have water for a month. So in between that, we had snow on one of the days.

And when you get some snow that goes over the ice, it makes it a little bit more easy, traction-wise, because we didn't want to drive anywhere. The roads were literally impassable. You couldn't go anywhere. You couldn't even walk on the road.

You'd fall down. So we got some snow. So my wife and I said, well, we got a little bit of a break. Let's go to the store. Let's get a few things for some friends. We decided to drive to a local store here called HEB.

HEB is like the dominating grocery chain in Texas. And so we pull in. People were lining up. We got on the line of about 50 people.

We made the best of it. We were probably outside for about 20 minutes. Finally, the line started moving. We got in the store. And about 10, 15 minutes into shopping, the lights went out.

And you literally could hear it go, oh, here we go again. And so we looked around at each other. It's like, well, let's just keep shopping until we're told not to shop. In the back of my mind, I kept thinking, they're going to come along pretty soon and make us leave. I was hoping they weren't just going to kick us out and we have to leave our stuff there, but I kind of half expected that. So we shop for about 10, 15 minutes.

And my wife was going to, oh, she said, oh, I forgot the bananas. So we start going that way. That's when one of the employees came along and said, hey folks, would you mind going to the front and we'll get you checked out as quickly as we can. We have a process for this.

So don't worry. We'll get you out here as quickly as we can. So of course we go up and we get in line and it's probably 10, I would say 10 to 12 people in front of us. Most of the people had full baskets, a bunch of people behind us. I don't know, maybe 10, 12.

I didn't really look, but there's a ton. So I thought this is going to take a long time because there was about 15 other lines, people going from the front to the back of the store because everybody's checking out at the same time. So in my mind, I even said to Deb, my wife, I said, well, this is going to take a long time. Are they going to get calculators out?

What are they going to do? We weren't sure. So I thought, well, maybe we're just waiting for the power to kick back in and maybe they have a generator. So maybe 10, 20 minutes, somewhere in there went by. We didn't, we barely moved. I don't even know if we moved up one cart.

And then all of a sudden, within a few minutes, we started moving. And as we moved up, a woman's employee says, do you guys have any alcohol? Like look in our carts. And I said, no, but if you're giving out drinks, I could use one right now. You know, just kind of make it fun.

I like to have fun with people. And so within a few minutes, I mean, literally just a couple of minutes, we were ushered to an open aisle and they waved us over. We go over there. My wife starts putting stuff on the conveyor belt and the woman said, oh, don't put anything up there.

We won't be able to bag anything today. So I thought it was kind of weird. Okay. So we pushed our cart to the end and she looked at us, looked at our groceries and kind of motioned with her arm, like go home and be safe, drive home safe. And we looked at her like, I even said, uh, who, how do we pay? And as, as, as I'm saying this, I'm watching all these carts go out the door and it kind of hit us like, wow, they're literally sending us home without asking us who we are, looking at what we had, counting anything, expecting anything from us.

And I turned to my wife, she's tearing up. It was just this wonderful gesture of this company because we always want to bash companies that they're all for profit. This company is literally letting 200 people walk out of this store without paying a single dime, without asking who you voted for, what's your social status, who you are, nothing, because quite frankly, because you're our customer. It's just an amazing thing. So we started leaving and we're like, this is unbelievable. And we, we get to the, the door and there's about eight to 10 of their employees standing there and kind of greeting us. It felt like a wedding, like, okay, everybody go home, be safe.

They're waving at us. And it became like a festive mood. And I turned at the edge of the door and I said, oh, wait a minute. I forgot the filet menu.

I forgot the menu. I forgot the filet mignon, you know, and they all busted out laughing. They knew what, what it was, what I was saying.

I'm just kidding. Of course, you know, part of you thinks, man, I should have got the filet mignon, you know, but of course we're all laughing about it. And we started getting a parking lot and it was very hard to maneuver the carts because of bumps of ice and snow. And without bags in the carts, stuff started falling out of people's carts and you could see everybody helping each other, holding onto other people's carts in front of behind them, helping them. And we all do this every day, but in that moment, it felt like I want to do even more. It's just, you know, given that that act of when someone gives you an act of kindness and generosity for no reason, first you feel, I don't know, a little guilty. Cause I never felt entitled, but I felt a little not guilty. I don't know what the right word is, but he felt like, wow, we didn't deserve that.

Can I give to somebody else who may, whom they need help, you know? So with that in mind, I got back to my car. We started driving home. We were talking about, wow, you don't see that every day. You know, a store like HEB just did that for its customers. So I told my wife, I said, I'm going to write about this story and I'm going to post it on Facebook and just share with a few of my friends. And you've been listening to Tim Hennessey tell the story of an experience in a grocery store. When we come back to Texans here on our American stories, we're celebrating our favorite holiday streaming day on May 20th. It may not be an office holiday, but we're working on it. And I heart radio is dedicating an entire day to streaming our favorite music and podcasts on Roku binge all the podcast episodes of dear Chelsea with Chelsea handler before the new season kicks off or dance in your living room to the hottest songs on the hit nation music channel on the Roku channel for free.

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Shop at Lulu's today. And we continue with our American stories. And when we last left off, Tim Hennessy was about to post his experience in that grocery chain on Facebook.

And let's pick up with Tim. This last year, we've gotten bombarded with nothing but bad news and maybe even the last decade or two. It just seems like we get more and more bad news. And because I just saw that as this is the America that I know and love. And that's what I was going to title the story.

This is the America I know and love, not the stuff you see in the newspaper, on the news all day, you know, all the time. So, uh, and my wife was thinking about it for a second. She said, why don't you just call it the heart of America? And I just liked what she said. It just hit me. I said, you know what? That's what I'm going to call it because it kind of is more succinct. This is the heart of America.

It truly is. So then she said, you know, I took Tim, I took a picture and I said, you did. She goes, yeah, I didn't really want people to know I was taking it. And she said, I just went through her tears. She said, I just captured that moment for us. It just, it was just a unique thing to see. I said, well, send me that picture.

I'll include that with the post. And I literally just wrote it. I actually gave it to my wife in a word document. She's my editor because I'm not the best speller. I hate to admit that I read voraciously, but I can not spell for nothing. Thank you God for a spell check. Like the word separate, forget it.

I put an E A, I don't know if it's E in the middle. Anyway, I'm getting off topic here. So she, she's edited for me. And I just posted it. And then I think our power went out again a little while later.

And then we woke up on that Wednesday after I posted it. And then sometime in the middle of the day, I thought, well, I'll check my Facebook post just to see if, you know, a couple of hundred of my friends, what they thought of that story. And I thought, Oh my, how does this happen?

At that time it was like 12 or 13,000 shares, a couple thousand comments and probably 10,000 likes. And I'm like, I don't have that many friends. How does this happen? How does this happen?

And I actually called a friend of my daughters who works for Facebook. And I said, Jesse, what the heck? And she says, Tim, what the heck? I said, well, you're supposed to, you're the expert.

Don't tell me what the heck, how does this happen? And she said, I don't know, Tim. I think the story hit a nerve at the right time. I think people needed to hear good news through all this. So then I, then I got worried. Okay.

I did not expect this to go like this. I was literally sharing with a few friends. So I got worried. So I called the store said, have you heard about a Facebook post about your store going viral? He goes, yes, we did. I said, is it, and it was the manager I asked for it. And I said, is it okay? Cause I didn't really, I didn't know this was going to happen. I didn't want to get anybody in trouble.

He said, no, it's all good, sir. I got the impression without him saying it, that it was a very positive thing for that store. Right. So, but I wanted to call their corporate office too, for a couple of reasons.

One, I wanted to double check that it was okay. And two, I wanted to find out what their charities were. And so I got a hold of somebody there and they said the local food bank is one of their charities. And also they directed me to their website. And she also mentioned this place called Lady Lodge. It's a family Christian based camp where people go and the donations help pay for families who can't afford it. And there's no cell service or internet. It's literally you're going camping.

And it's a few hours away from us here in Texas. So we, my wife and I wrote checks to both of them for more than what we would have paid in groceries, because we felt like this was such a great gesture. It was our way of giving back somehow.

Right. But the next day that story just kept getting bigger and bigger. And it was over 30,000 shares, 3,200 comments, more likes than I could ever count.

And then the phone started ringing. I got text messages, email messages, direct messages from various news organizations, CNN, Washington Post, Fox News, NBC, People Magazine, ABC, basically the who's who of media. And then I still got a little bit nervous about it because I thought, well, I don't want this company. This is a very private company, very humble company. They do a lot for the community, H-E-B does a lot.

They're almost always, whenever there's a disaster, they're almost always the first there for water and food supplies. They're very generous company in Texas, family oriented. And so I called them one more time. I said, you know, I've been doing these interviews.

I don't know if anybody saw it, but have somebody call me back and let me know if you want me to continue or stop because I'll stop today. Cause it's not about me. I just wanted to, not necessarily promote the store, but just to show the goodness that there is in this country. Cause there's a lot of good things in this country. We see it every single day. We see it all across this country.

We see it in our neighborhoods. How many of us go out every day, we help somebody, but it doesn't make the news because that's what we're supposed to do. That's what God wants us to do. That's why we're here.

We're here to be good to each other. Right? So they call me back. One of their corporate spokespeople called me back. I don't know if it was the next day or that same day.

I can't remember. And we talked for about a half hour on the phone and he said, Tim, he goes, let me just tell you something. He goes, we're not going to stop what you're doing.

We love what you're doing. We're getting a lot of phone calls right now about if that story is true or not. And all we do is tell them, yes, it happened, but that's as far as they go. And basically, because they don't want to toot their own horn.

They could easily point to their back and go, look at the name of my back of my jersey. This is H-E-B. Aren't we great?

But that's not what they want to do. That's how great of a company they are. Oh, I wanted to add one more thing. So, and this is for my wife, so I have to give her credit. This is my wife, Debbie. I have to give her credit for this because this is her. She says this all the time. And that's why she took that picture, too. She says this following phrase, God only needs a moment.

Right? God only needs a moment. And the phrase that I, one of my favorite quotes that I kind of live my life by is from Albert Einstein.

And it goes like this. Live your life as if there are no miracles or everything is a miracle. I probably botched that quote.

I'm a little nervous right now. But so I live it as if everything's a miracle. And when you look for good things, you look for the miracles in life, it may seem silly to go, wow, you think it's a miracle? Did this guy let these people walk out the store?

I think it is. That's what we look for, the moments. And again, I've got to give my wife credit for God only needs a moment. You look for these things, you see them everywhere.

They don't get reported all the time, but we see them. And I'll give you an example of another moment or a miracle happened during the same week I saw the story. It was in San Antonio, Texas. I believe it was a 7-Eleven.

And it was either the owner or the manager who wrote this on Twitter. And she went to her store one morning and all the water that's left out outside on pallets is missing. She said over a hundred cases of water were missing. And she thought, well, I guess people needed water because we're having issues.

So she understood it. And she goes to open the door of the 7-Eleven and there on the floor was $620 in all kind of different denominational bills. So in other words, it wasn't just one person who just put in $620. They put, they slid through the slit of the door, not like a mail slot. You know, like some doors a mail, the slit of the door, they slid in $620 in ones, twos, tens, twenties, and there's a picture of it.

That is a miracle, right? So we see these all over the place. And I'll give you a couple other examples. I don't know if this is a great example, but in my neighborhood, and probably all across Texas, people were out walking, driving when we could, going house to house, checking on people.

How are you doing? Did you know you can melt snow and ice to flush, to put in the back of your toilet to flush? I didn't know that. Okay, great. And we see this everywhere all over this country, like I said, a thousand times a day.

How many times have you heard of a police officer? And this happens all the time. Maybe somebody stand in front of them. They're like, I don't know. It happens all the time.

Maybe somebody stand in front of them. Doesn't have enough money to pay for their food or whatever. And that officer, they're not, they're not going to make the most money in the world.

We'll take out their own money and pay for that, right? Every once in a while, we hear that story, but that happens all the time, those kinds of things. So miracles do happen every single day. This world is a miracle and we're all here and the sun rises every day and every day. We take it for granted, but that's still a miracle. You know, when I go turn the lights on now, I think twice about it because we didn't have it for a few days. When I turn the faucet on, I think twice about it now.

A week ago, it was like, not even in your mind. Those are miracles. If you, if you think about it that way, that some water is coming from some plant, it's treated. The electricity is coming from someplace. It comes into my place and it gives me light, gives me the power of my refrigerator, my TV, my stove, all these things. We take it for granted. We have delegated so many things in our lives as just mundane, but they're miracles. And you've been listening to Tim Hennessey, the heart of America, a story of the Hennessey family and H-E-B, a grocery chain that wanted nothing, no credit, no adulation. They just did the right thing. This great story here on Our American Stories.

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