A Nice Lady

After work today I stopped at a popular discount store to pick up a few things. As I waited in line to pay up, there was a man and his little girl, about age 4, in front of me. The cashier waiting on them was a nice older (older than ME, that is) woman, who was talking cutely to the little girl. The little girl beamed up at her, and as she and her dad walked away, she said to her father, “That was a nice lady.” And to a little girl, she was indeed a very nice lady.

I put my few items on the conveyor belt and prepared to pay. The nice older woman flashed a big smile at me and asked, “Well, how are you, sweetie?” I sighed inwardly. It had been a long and frustrating day and I just wanted to pay for my things, and go home. But I smiled at her and said, “I’m just fine, thank you, and you?” She gave me a big smile and assured me that she was just as fine as she could be. Great–all pleasantries done and done.

When everything was totaled up, I asked if I could use my debit card for credit, and she grinned and said “Sure! Just go WHOOOP! with your card and select Other.”

‘WHOOOP?’ I remember her saying that to the little girl ahead of me when her dad let her use his card. I just smiled and WHOOOPED. Then she merrily walked me through the rest of the steps. When she printed the receipt for me, it obviously was at the end of the roll; it was striped with pink. She giggled and said, “Ooooh! You get the candy-striped receipt! You must be SPECIAL!!!” I gamely smiled and thanked her, gathered up my things and left before I came down with diabetes.

Look, I have been in customer service and it’s no picnic. I remember well how I had to arm myself mentally to deal kindly and patiently with people even when they were screaming at me. I’ve also been on the other end of customer service and been frustrated and angered when getting someone on the other end who obviously could care less about helping me. So, when faced with a dear old thing like this lady, what can I do but admire her unique way of dealing with her customers?

When I was a lot younger and a LOT more arrogant, I would have been fresh and insolent to a woman like this. I would have missed her obvious effort to be kind in the face of what has to be one of the most thankless jobs under the sun. This woman had to have been close to 70 (but at 63, I’m not all that far away from 70 myself!), she must have been on her feet all day, and who knows what her circumstances must be? All the way home I wondered about her. Was she alone? Was she caring for an elderly parent? Did she have her children and possibly grandchildren living with her? Was she having a hard time making ends meet and had to take whatever job she could to get by? Or was she just lonely for human contact and perhaps really loved working with people?

Well, I’ll tell you–I walked into my house with a great deal more humility and gratitude than when I left in the morning. I wished I had played along with her about that stupid pink and white striped receipt–what would it have hurt to do so? I wished I had the sense to see the greatness of spirit in this woman. How many opportunities have I missed by letting my own ego get in the way of my better self?

In other posts I’ve mentioned “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz. The last two agreements are “Don’t make assumptions,” and “Always do your best.” Today I made an assumption that this woman was silly and frivolous, and I did not do my best. I’m not proud of this, but I did learn something important–grace and kindness come in unexpected packages. We miss so much by being in our own heads and letting ourselves be consumed with our own cares.

Lesson learned: next time I’ll be genuinely thrilled to get that pink and white striped receipt.

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