Friday, August 22, 2014

What If?

K-Love is my favorite radio station, and I enjoy the uplifting stories as much as the music. One of the DJ’s told a story about having her coffee paid for by the person who had checked out before her. Of course we all know this is called “paying it forward.” She was surprised and felt blessed, even though in the past, she had done the same thing for other people. She shared about another event when “paying it forward” continued at a place of business for eleven hours. We need to hear those stories, to be reminded that many people are good and kind. Later as I was checking out at the local grocery store, her story still speaking to my heart helped me to see a need and gently nudged me into action. I only needed a box of spaghetti, and I was in a hurry. I was on a roll, I thought, as I quickly found what I’d come for and headed to the check-out. I went to the Express lane since I had less than twenty items. One item, that’s all I had, just one! But, isn’t it always the same, the express line clogged with people who can’t count. I looked for another lane, but the only other lane open had several people impatiently waiting, and I was sure the Express lane would be faster. The clerk was scanning groceries for the customer she was serving, and as the counter started to empty, the lady who was in front of me and next in line began trying to unload her cart. She was slow and struggling to lift some of the items up onto the counter. At first, all I could think about was the large package of frozen Sister Shubert rolls I had purchased at Sam’s Club that were surely prematurely baking in my hot car. But then I looked at her, really looked at her. She was probably in her eighties, and appeared weak and somewhat withered. Instantly I felt compassion. So I began to help her. By this time, the line behind me had extended out into the store with many more people who were also in a hurry. The clerk was obviously stressed and not very friendly. The lady checking out became confused when it came time to pay her bill. The clerk was curt and impatient which caused the customer to be even more confused. Finally, the lady behind me graciously asked if she meant to pay with a check. The mention of a check must have reminded her, and the lady reached into her purse, pulled out a check she’d already signed, gave it to the clerk and paid the bill. I loaded her bags of groceries into her cart and told her I would come help her get them in her car. After I paid for my spaghetti and left the store, she was still slowly making her way to her car. As we loaded her groceries into the trunk of her car, she said she suffers from COPD and the heat made it difficult to move any faster. She also said she knew she slowed things down and that people were upset with her because they were in a hurry. I told her those same people might be a little slow someday too. She thanked me and we said goodbye. All the way home, and for the rest of the day, I wondered how many people had passed her by and not really looked at her. I also wondered how many people I had passed by and ignored. Maybe not everyone would have needed the same type of help. What If people just wanted to be seen? What If some just wanted to be acknowledged with, “hello, how are you today”? What If you let the person speeding toward you in their car in the parking lot have that one empty spot? What If you slowed down to let the person in the fast lane who had sped past several cars (too fast, I might add) just ease in front of you at the exit? What If you hurried to open the door for the mom pushing a stroller, carrying a toddler, with two other young children holding on? What If you answered a sharp remark with grace? What If you spoke to or waved to everyone you passed in your neighborhood? What If you took a meal to a sick friend or neighbor? What If you volunteered at your local nursing home, even if you only had an hour to spare? What If you smiled at the people you passed in the store, actually looked at them and smiled? What If you held the door open for someone? What If you offered, without being asked, to get your neighbors mail, feed the cat and watch their house while they are away on vacation? What If you are nice to your server in the restaurant even when they aren’t? What If you helped a co-worker, even if it “isn’t your job”? What If you remembered to always say please, thank you, your welcome, and have a nice day (and mean it)? What If you kept your word, your promises and your commitments? What If you knocked on every door of every house on your street, introduced yourself, told them where you live and told them if they ever needed anything to be sure to let you know? Manners have disappeared and language has become crude and offensive. If you don’t go through the light when it turns green fast enough, the person behind you will honk their horn. There was no such thing as “road rage” until a few years ago, now our highways seem to be heavily traveled with armed, angry people. Fights break out in department stores on black Friday over electronics and other “good deals.” I know there are good people, kind people, people who volunteer in many places, help their neighbors and maybe do all the things I mentioned above. But What If everyone did? What a wonderful world that would be (sounds like a good line for a song). The incident at the grocery store gave me pause and I was convicted of my own occasional selfishness and lack of concern for others. My speech isn’t crude and I still have manners, but I admit to being rushed and becoming impatient when I am being detained by others. I will try to change.

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