About a week ago I was at the store, in the self checkout lane, listening to my headphones as I always do at the grocery store. I should note that, due to an old injury, I have a pinched radial nerve. Because of this I had a bit of a challenge when it was my turn, with some of my items. Vaguely realizing someone was waiting behind me, I attempted to move more quickly. My attempts were foiled when I had to ring up an onion, trying to find the produce tag one-handed and set it on the scale to weigh.
To my distracted surprise, I heard an elderly woman behind me say, "I see you've got a bum wrist". Directly, she went to the end if the conveyor belt and bagged my groceries for me. I was dumbstruck. All I could say was thank you, over and over. Here was a woman, already inconvenienced having to wait as I fumbled my groceries, and now offering her assistance with no real reason at all. I was at a loss.
By the time the last of my items were bagged and the only thing left was for me to to pay, there were others in line behind us. Two women and a small baby. Immediately upon returning to her place in line, this woman offered to let the waiting women and the child take her place. With no pride, no glory. Only generosity. The women graciously declined, all the while this woman engaging with their young child and making conversation.
I finished with my payment, but hesitated. How often have I been called to express gratitude, how many times has my self-consciousness prevented it? I don't know, but too many. Probably every time if I'm honest. This time I could not allow myself to walk away without some attempt, no matter how lame, to express my gratitude.
I forced myself, my cart full, my task completed, to speak. I said to the woman, "thank you, the world needs your kindness," thinking only how inadequate my words were. Her response? "We can all be kind, all we have to do is pay attention. We can all do that."
That simple, short statement hit me like a ton of bricks. For so many months, I've been vigilantly focused on the big issues, the daunting battles. I've kept my sights focused on the corruption, the scandal, the outrage and the moral pain. I haven't paid attention. I've occupied my days filing the emptiness with voices to distract and causes to fight for.
How can we not in such an overwhelming time?
And yet, I left the store that day with tears in my eyes. This woman's selfless response, her demeanor, her wisdom, and her control (yes, control) touched the deepest wounds in my heart and at the same time, showed me how to heal. How? PAY ATTENTION
It struck me how little of that I do, yet always considering myself observational. Really though, I only ever saw what I wanted to see. I promised myself that day that I would pay attention. That I would be present for the life I've been blessed with. I would take any opportunity to give what I can, to bring a smile or bit of hope to another. This weekend I had my chance.
Again, doing my weekly shopping. I was in the cosmetics isle, with my ear buds in as usual, when I remembered my mission: To pay attention. Reluctantly I removed my entertainment. It was only then that I looked up, noticed who was in the isle with me. Approaching was an elderly woman, poised and classy, clothes and makeup coordinated with care.
I SAW her. Not as in, noticed out of the corner of my eye. Not because I was in her way or she was mine. I simply saw her, appreciated HER We began to chat, as sometimes happens when you find that loose connection of being in the same vicinity, looking for the same thing. But I don't think this was chance.
As we expressed our individual woes pertaining to cosmetics, she explained she wasn't able to find a satisfactory solution to what she found to be such a cosmetic problem (I hope to one day be that beautiful). I thought I might offer an alternative to her dilemma and shared some of my favorite products and techniques. These were new to her, so I showed her how to apply the products and helped her find something in her price range.
What made the most impact? If you erased skin color, religious beliefs, identity and sexual orientation.... We are all ONE. We all can give something, we all can touch a fellow human. We are each an irreplaceable piece of a priceless puzzle, and our collective society would forever be incomplete if we forget to embrace that.
Thank you for sticking with me through my story. I would just like to ask one more thing: please, pay attention?
We are all so consumed with the endless issues, the barrage of legislation which seems almost designed to tear apart our society. Which marches to go to, petitions to sign, votes to cast, representatives to contact, volunteering to fit in? .... All of this, we do it. And we haven't lost any of of the responsibilities that seemed so consuming before. We just add more on. When you think about that, I hope you take a moment to realize how strong you (we all) are.
But please. When you're not marching, picketing, protesting? Pay attention. Sometimes the smallest efforts create the largest impacts. And truthfully we all need a kind word to offset our dismal climate.
Let's pay more attention, be more present. It is the only now you'll ever have, make it a moment to remember ❤️