One Saturday just before Christmas, I learned another lesson about kindness. I found myself in Walgreen’s where I was a part of an extremely long line at the checkout counter. Apparently I wasn’t the only one who was doing some last minute Christmas shopping. It was a big store and it was filled with lots of customers but for some reason, there was only one person working the cash register. I was about nine people back and the tension was so thick, you could almost see a gray aura of negativity gushing out of the line, making its way towards the undeserving cashier.
I would like to say that I was above this negativity, but the truth was I had become a part of the “Mob” mentality that was brewing. I caught myself thinking, “Can’t she hurry up? Of all the nerve, I don’t have all day ya know.” I tried to make some eye contact with the lady behind the counter, hoping that she would sense my indignation. Eventually, she did glance up from the register long enough for our eyes to meet. It wasn’t long, only a fraction of a second, but it was long enough for me to completely change my perspective. With just that quick look, I saw her as a conscientious but overwhelmed person who was doing her best under stressful circumstances. She was trying to get through the day, working as hard as she could in a thankless job. This brief connection made me even more aware of the negativity being sent her way by the impatient crowd. However this time, I was no longer a participant in the drama. I’d had become a spectator. Better yet, I found myself wanting to help her, to bring her some much needed compassion, to make her smile.
Amazingly when my attitude changed, the line suddenly was moving faster.
As I was leaving the store our eyes crossed and she mouthed me a “Thank you”, and then happily turned back to the next person in line. I knew she felt better and so did I. It is amazing what just a bit of kindness can do for everyone involved.
When I reached the cash register she looked up and the forced a smile, undoubtedly expecting me to give her the same energy I had a minute earlier. I smiled at her and hoped that I could find the right words. I jokingly told her that she was personally responsible for not only the long line in the store, but for the traffic outside as well. She flashed me a relieved smile. You could almost feel her tension dissolving. I then thanked her for being so patient with all of us grumpy customers and told her how I thought she was doing a great job and that the store was lucky to have her. As I was leaving the store our eyes crossed and she mouthed me a “Thank you”, and then happily turned back to the next person in line. I knew she felt better and so did I. It is amazing what just a bit of kindness can do for everyone involved. I’d like to tell you that I always handle situations in the same thoughtful and compassionate way, with kindness, like I did that day, but the truth is….I don’t. I wish I did and I really try to. But it doesn’t always happen.