Last Sunday I found myself at the end of a long and non-moving line at the check out of a major box store. The woman ahead of me looked frazzled. She kept fussing with the packages in her cart and staring hard at the line in front of her. Muttering to herself and clutching the lapels of her coat, she turned her head and caught my gaze. I smiled.
She had had just about enough and my smile was the trigger. She let loose on the management, on the slow abysmal service, rising prices, worthless employees and a general and wide ranging plethora of complaints and cantankerous crankiness.
I let her rant. I put my hand on her arm and simply nodded. I mean, after all, she was older than me, and armed only with a 24 pack of toilet paper and a box of power bars. The inside of her purse bulged with scraps of paper and coupons. As she sorted through it, I thought to myself, we could be here awhile.
On another day, actually only a few short days prior to this one, I might have looked exactly like her. I had had a particularly bad week myself, and minor excursions to the store zapped my strength and my last nerve. I would not have welcomed any conversation. In fact, I am sure that I wore an expression that would have kept escaped criminals at bay.
I did know, however, that the truth of it is, in the middle of that life-really-sucks episode, I would have loved to have someone take me into their arms and say hush now. Hold me really really tight and say nothing at all. An outlet for my electrical charge. A place to lay the frenzy down.
So when she looked at me once again, I put my hand on her arm and just listened. Looked her in the eyes and listened. We could do all of this better, dontcha think, she said. Then another torrent of common sense, and decency and what in the world and why is everything such a mess...as we both reached in her cart and loaded her goods on the conveyor belt.
Empty, I thought. Empty it out. It's okay.
She made her way to the cashier, as she fumbled with her scarf, shaking her head and apologizing for her mess of a self. I watched as she struggled with her purchase, and at the calm of the woman waiting behind the cash register. We are friends. We share the same first name and on quieter days laugh about my affinity for buying reading glasses in packs of ten.
The people behind me in line shoved in closer, reaching for the divider separating our goods from one another, rapidly losing their patience and letting me know with their elbows. Sandwiched between, I felt like an island of quiet. Today was the first good day after a lengthy dry spell. I wasn't about to give that up.
So I merely faced forward and sent along my good wishes telepathically. That I had good wishes in my mind at all was such a gift, I needed to share.
She wrapped her coat around her tightly and pulled at her cart heading toward the door as I moved up...no one was more surprised than I when she stopped and turned back. She laid her hand on my arm, and without making eye contact, said...
Thank you for the interesting conversation.
I smiled to myself.
I heard her.
She heard me.
Yes, that qualifies as a conversation.
The fact that she thanked me for it, made me stand a bit taller. Made my good day even brighter.
Because occasionally, there are those awful days, when being ourselves is almost too much to bear. When even a smile feels like a slap. When we are trying to just hang on for a little bit longer, to sort things out, to even things up and we cannot, cannot ask for help. And we yell or make such a frightening face we are scary on the outside...when what we are truly...is scary on the inside.
Now let's not lose all our marbles here. Just a few loose ones.
Some folks are just plain rude.
And annoying jerks.
But most of us, most of us are doing the best that we can whichever way we can. Let's face it, looking at someone hanging by a thread, makes us want to flee. Once in awhile, however, if you are in a good place, and have a kind heart, a gesture of care, no matter how small, finds its way home.
Thank you says it all.
I am so sure of this simple truth, that I know there is someone out there in the universe in the middle of a long check out line, filled with the goodness of a very good day, waiting for me, with their pocket ready to be picked... and...
I am the one with the toilet paper and the power bars.
I am warming up the keys...loosening up my fingers...gathering my courage...so...stay close...be ready...and watch this space...Chapter One is coming soon...