Thursday, October 13, 2016

Making Change

Gotta talk about it again.  Sorry if it bores you but this is important:  What we do matters.

I had to run several errands on the way home from the Post Office yesterday.  My last stop was the local grocery.  Money is short right now but potatoes are on sale, so I raided my change jar.  As I was standing in line to pay, the guy ahead of me turned around.  He looked at me (Chubby Little Old Lady), and he looked at the big bag of potatoes, then he looked me in the face and shook his head.  I could see it on his face and I could imagine what he was thinking:  Yeah, like she Really needs those potatoes, huh?

Well, actually, I do need potatoes--they are full of vitamins and they aren't bad for you if you don't load them down with a lot of extra stuff--and although my cupboard is not entirely bare, it's bare enough.   If Judgmental Guy had thought to look at my neck instead of my bag of potatoes, he would have seen the scar from the surgical incision that slit my throat from ear to ear--a clear sign of someone who has had a thyroidectomy.  If I could be a skinny little old lady, I would but, as it is, I am doing my best not to gain and that (like so very many other things in my life) just has to be Good Enough.

I could have done some judging myself about what was in his cart but it was none of my business, so I just nodded and smiled and let it go.

There were a couple of problem transactions at the register (Not the cashier's fault) and the line was running slow, so the old guy behind me got impatient.  He kept hopping from one foot to another and thumping his one item (think it was aftershave) on the belt.  It would have been easy to get cross with that but I had noticed him limping badly as he got into line behind me, so I figured he was in pain.  I turned around and made a little joke with him.  He laughed.  I laughed.  Other people laughed.  The cashier looked relieved.  The general mood lightened.

But then Judgmental Guy's transaction failed.  He didn't have enough money on his Food Stamp card to pay for his stuff.  He dug all the cash he had out of his pocket and counted it out penny by penny, agonizingly slowly.  He had to know everyone was watching.  And I figured that being observed like that had to be every bit as painful as whatever physical problem Impatient Old Guy behind me was enduring.  JG was short two cents and offered to put some item from his groceries back.  The cashier had an extra penny, and I contributed the other; JG could have his groceries.

He looked around again at me.  I just said, "Happens to us all sometimes.  No worries."   Maybe I understand better than he could imagine:  after all, I was only able to buy that bag of potatoes because I had raided my change jar.

You know there's really nothing to be gained by shaming someone, even if you've been wrongly judged yourself, and there's nothing to be gained by showing impatience because you never know how much someone else is hurting.  It's not hard to be kind; it just takes practice.  I had to learn that, too; it doesn't come naturally.

Now, what would have happened if I had told Judgmental Guy to mind his business?  What would have happened if I told off Impatient Old Guy?  What would have happened if I hollered at the cashier because things were moving too slowly?

Yeah, my sore foot hurt, too.  Yeah, I was short of money, too.  Yeah, I didn't feel like standing there waiting either.  Yeah, I have a right to my feelings and my opinions. 

BUT here is the MOST Important stuff:
other people have a right NOT to have to listen
or to tolerate someone else's nonsense. 
We have a responsibility to one another. 
We create the atmosphere of the world we live in.

Life can be a LOT better if we all just belt up and play nice, especially when we don't feel like it.  It makes the world a more pleasant place for us all, and that's what we really want, isn't it?  A smile.  A kind word.  A little help when we need it.  That's the sort of stuff that makes us good human beings.

This is change that anyone can create simply by engaging self-control and putting others first.

Truthfully, I had forgotten all about the penny incident by the time I got to my car and I was busy thinking about other stuff, so I was surprised, as I was getting in the driver's seat, when I noticed someone waving to me from across the parking space.  It was JG with a big smile on his face.  He said, "Thank you."  I smiled and waved back.

You know what?  His unguarded smile made my day.

When I reached into that bag of potatoes last night to get one to cook for supper, this is what I found:

Life is good.  It is also really, really short.
Forgive somebody today.
Make change.

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