I had one of these moments at the dollar store down the street from my house. My daughter wanted a new diary. I needed paper towels and a new dish scrubber. We found everything but the perfect diary, which can be difficult at a dollar store. At the check out, an elderly woman purchased three bags of items. She moved slow. Her speech was soft, and I could tell the cashier had little patience for her elderly ways. Before she could pick up her three bags full of dollar store goodies, the cashier began ringing up my items, and put my bag next to hers. To me, he was open and friendly, asking how I am doing, and telling me to have a nice day.
Confused, she asked, “Sir, how am I to know which bags are mine?” He barely looked at her, and said, “I don’t know.”
“Here,” I said, “I will take my bag so you know which ones are yours.”
She began to put her bags in a cart, and asked, “Can I take this cart to my car? My husband is just outside waiting for me.”
The cart had one of those silly long poles attached to it. An ornament I’ve only seen here in California. It prevents people from getting them out the door.
Clearly frustrated with her and probably wishing she’d just leave, he gave a quick,”No.”
“Well, how do they expect me to take all my things to my car?”
“I’ll ask someone to help you,” but he didn’t.
What was going on with this young man? Why is he so bothered by her? His double chin hung down his neck. His large stomach heaved as he struggled for breath. He’s working at a dollar store. He’s probably not happy and he looks uncomfortable. Maybe he has issues with his grandmother. Or maybe she just died. Whatever the issue is with him, I observe how she looks at him when he speaks to her. She is too polite to cause a fuss, but she notices, and I sense his reaction penetrates deeply, as if she gets this response all the time.
I said, “I can help you.”
She looked at my daughter and the one bag in my hand, and answered as I know my grandma would, “You have enough to deal with. I will wait for help.”
I did not want to force my assistance, but I also did not want to accept her refusal. I waited by the exit to see if she would figure it out, or for the cashier to get her help. She started to move toward the door and I saw her husband in the handicap spot, waiting for her with his eyes closed.
I grabbed her three bags, and said, “I will help you.”
“Oh, you don’t have to do that.”
I opened the door and put the bags in the back seat. As she got in her car, I saw the woman who was behind me in the check out line watching us, along with Lilli, my daughter. “Mom,” she said, “That was really nice. Why did you help her?”
I told her I didn’t like the way the man at the store was treating her and it was a reminder that someday, we all will have bodies that move slow and have speech that is soft, and we will need help and we will want to be treated kindly.
That night, I watched an Oprah episode. They talked about the chemicals in our bodies changing when we witness an act of kindness. I knew my daughter and this unknown woman experienced a change in their cells. The act was simple. Not a big deal for me to do. But….
What was a big deal, were my thoughts of the man behind the counter. I wasn’t angry or disgusted with him. I did not judge him. I noticed him and wondered what his pain was. In this space, I did not attack or scold. Instead I put my attention on what mattered most at that moment- diffusing and balancing the negative energy being projected at this elderly woman, who thought she was only going out for a few essentials at the dollar store. I thought the same thing.
Today’s Soul Tip:
A new way of being is breaking through for me. Where there was judgment there is now wonder and observation. Where there once was a reaction from that place of judgment, there is now a response to diffuse and restore balance.
Everywhere are opportunities for us to observe and respond in more conscious and less judgmental ways. Moments where we can truly support each other, and in doing so we affect not only ourselves and those we assist, but those around us who are watching. It literally changes the environment. As they say, BE THE CHANGE you seek.
The Soul Reporter