>The Man Behind the Counter


There are moments when we see how delicately and masterfully we are weaved together. Moments where we leave our “everyday” consciousness and move into a space of keen observation where we access a greater understanding and opportunity to support the environment we are in.  These moments can happen in the most mundane of places.

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

>In Honor of Clarissa Walker


I published this post in October of 2010, in honor of my husband’s grandmother.  On March 7, 2011, Clarissa Walker, the woman who influenced my husband more than any other passed away. In remembrance I republish this post:

How do you feel when you hear these words,  “How can I help?”  If someone approached you on the street and asked you this question, what might you say? If you asked yourself, how you might help yourself, what answer might you give?

Mrs. Clarissa Walker is my grandmother-in-law.  In 1968, she was recruited to work with Sabathani Community Center in Minneapolis.  In almost 40 years of employment with Sabathani, she housed, fed, clothed and did the taxes of low income people in the community and beyond.  When I called the center, looking for my boyfriend (who is now my husband), her grandson, “Chucky,” she answered the phone, “How can I help?”  Even at a young age, this question always struck me.

This question defines the spirit of Mrs. Walker. She not only asked, “How can I Help?” but she responded to those needs.  Now, Mrs. Walker is unable to respond to those needs, and the community has lost the generosity she gave so freely.

On November 6, is Mrs. Walker’s Birthday. She will be 79.  To honor her spirit, my husband, Charles Rogers has created The National “How Can I Help” Day.  On this day, we remember how good it feels to give. We ask the question, “How Can I Help?”, and we open our eyes and perk up our ears and see where there is a need, and respond. It can be as simple as opening a door for a stranger or donating money to a cause.  You may also choose to ask yourself, How you can I help myself.  We often neglect to do what would make us feel good, and when we feel good we can’t help but to spread that goodness.

Today’s Soul Tip:

Light that Giving fire. It feels good. Begin to live this question everyday, and see your world open up.

If this Day of “How Can I Help” resonates with you, share it.  We see this vision spreading like gentle wildfire through our homes, communities and beyond.  It will become a day we cultivate and honor not just once a year, but every day. We are all here together, and when we are down and out, we might like to hear, “How Can I Help?”

For more information on Mrs. Walker, go to these links:

In 2004, she was given the Preus award, an award which recognizes individuals who are true servants.

A Blog Post by her grandson, Charles Rogers

On Facebook? Become a Fan of Mrs. Walker’s Page and stay updated on National “How Can I Help” Day on November 6.  A place for you to share how you helped.

The Soul Reporter