PORTLAND, Ore. — Fear of catching and spreading COVID-19 to her husband almost led a Portland woman to leave a busy grocery store empty-handed. Instead, her concerns opened the door to an act of great kindness.
To know Karla Hudson, is to know her husband Stu.
“We've been married for 25 years now,” said Hudson with pride.
The Hudsons, who have three sons, were college sweethearts and remain best friends. They leaned on each other during Stu's two kidney transplants and a recent battle with stage 4 skin cancer. Fortunately, Stu's been in remission since August, but when they learned about COVID-19 they knew they had to be careful.
“We just really want to keep him safe and healthy,” said Hudson. “The virus could take away everything.”
And yet, life goes on. Like on Sunday, April 5, when the family ran out of milk.
“I thought I could just hop down to the grocery store and grab a couple of things and everything would be fine,” said Hudson.
She drove to Trader Joe’s in NE Portland’s Hollywood District. The line of shoppers wrapped around the building.
“I started to go get in that line and felt really overwhelmed,” said Hudson.
She thought of Stu, who’d been in quarantine for over a month. She thought of the virus and milk and then… tears. She couldn't stop them as she explained her situation to a store employee. She hadn’t expected to get emotional.
“It was embarrassing at that moment I found myself having a meltdown in front of Trader Joe’s," said Hudson. “As I was standing there, this sweet young man approached me and said, ‘Let me shop for you.’”
That young man was Trader Joe’s associate, Ashwin Patankar. Hudson said she appreciated his offer but didn’t want to impose or get special treatment.
“He insisted,” said Hudson. “He said, ‘No, this isn't worth taking a risk for you. Let me do your shopping.’”
“Hudson waited in her car as Patankar picked up milk, yogurt and bananas. He texted with Hudson as he selected a few other items to make sure he got them right. When he was done shopping, he paid for Hudson’s groceries so she didn't have to worry about coming into the store at that moment. Hudson later paid him back.
“He brought my groceries out to my car, asked how my family was and how we were doing,” recalled Hudson. “He just took one of those moments where you find yourself feeling so overwhelmed and so vulnerable and he turned it into something that was just sweet and generous.”
As she drove home, Hudson figured her story was just one of countless others like it unfolding during these challenging times. Still, there can never be too many of those.
“My mom said, ‘You know, we need more Ashwins in the world,’” shared Hudson. “Maybe be this will inspire people to be more like Ashwin.”
In a message to KGW, Patankar wrote, "I feel like we're all doing our best."
He pointed to Mister Rogers' famous advice to kids dealing with scary times: “Look for the helpers, you will always find people who are helping.”
Patankar added, "Hopefully this brings out the best in all of us."
It did for Hudson, who on Sunday was left clutching onto a grocery list and hope for humanity.
“I was just so grateful for him in that moment,” she said.