I went to the grocery store after work yesterday. I got my non-zero amount of stuff and looked for the checkout with the shortest line. Lo, there was a checkout with NO line, managed by one of my favorite checkout ladies. She’s an older lady that’s been there for years – always sweet, rosy-cheeked, smiling. As I pushed my cart toward her, I heard her laughing with the lady at the next lane, saying she’d been due a break for the last half-hour but the person who was supposed to spell her disappeared.
I paused and said, “I’ll find another lane if you need to go on break!” She assured me that she’d be happy to take me, so I started off-loading my stuff onto the conveyor. I told her it was very kind of her to take me, and she said, “You know, dear, it’s the most important thing in the world to be kind to one another.” I agreed wholeheartedly, and said, “Sometimes the small acts of kindness go so much further than we realize, when someone REALLY needs it.”
She was quiet, and I looked up. To my surprise, she had tears in her eyes. “Oh, what’s wrong?” I cried. She half-laughed and said, “Well, back when I was your age, I was really, really sick. I was alone with three small children, and I remember how my mother taught me how important it was to be kind. Even on the days that I didn’t REALLY want to be kind, or show kindness, I tried to, but it was hard. Some days, I was just so sick, and so tired, and so ALONE… well, I admit, some days I just wasn’t as kind as I should have been. I’m reminded today, just when you said that, of a person who was kind to me when I was rude to them. It was at a different job, and… well, I was kind of awful to him. Like I said, I was sick, and I was TIRED of being sick. Instead of being awful back to me, like I deserved, he was kind. At a time when I really, really needed it. He didn’t know about my life, I was as much as stranger to him as he was to me. He probably doesn’t remember it at all, wherever he is now, but I still do.”
I reached across the conveyor and gave her a firm hug, and told her that she was one of the kindest ladies I’ve ever met, and that her mother raised her well. She sniffed and laughed, and said, “I guess I just really need that break!”
Here’s the moral of the story, and your life lesson for today. When someone is rude or unkind to you, don’t assume that it’s their norm. Respond with kindness. Even if YOU don’t see the difference yourself, you’ll probably MAKE a difference to them.