“Isn’t it wonderful to find people who have kindness in their heart?”

That’s one of several comments I received in response to last week’s blog post. The person who wrote it added that she enjoys telling people who are waiting on her what a great job they’re doing. She specifically mentioned a grocery store she shops at that employs baggers who have disabilities, and said they are all smiles when she compliments them on their work.

This reminded me of a column I wrote years ago. It was first published in the Chanhassen Villager in 2005, and I thought it was worth printing again. I hope you enjoy it, and that it provides you with some food for thought – no pun intended.

Finding a Few Extra Items at the Grocery Store

I was in the grocery store the other day, heading for the checkout lane with a week’s worth of groceries. As I approached the only empty lane in the store, another person was coming from the other direction, with a cart as loaded up as mine. We each paused a moment, giving the other one a chance to go first. And then, since I consider myself a nice person but not a saint, I went on ahead. The other person moved over to a different lane.

As I was leaving the store, I passed a woman who was just finishing bagging her groceries. Helping her was her son – the person who had been pushing the other grocery cart. I went up to the woman and told her what a courteous and polite son she had. In a situation where many people shift into demolition derby mode, he waited and gave me a chance to go ahead of him.

The woman looked surprised. Not, I assume, because her son did something nice, but because someone took the time to mention it.

“Thank you,” she said. “I appreciate your saying that.”

I saw them again a few minutes later in the parking lot. It turns out we were parked right next to each other. This time, the woman approached me.

“I really want to thank you for what you said in there,” she told me, adding that her son was diabetic, and his blood sugar was a little high that day, which sometimes makes him cranky. “He’s still always polite, though,” she said.

As I started to get in my car, the son nodded and smiled at me, too. “Thank you,” he said. And as I drove off into the sunset – well, actually in the other direction – I felt pretty darn good. I have to admit, though, that I also felt a little twinge of guilt over getting in line ahead of a diabetic who was having a bad day. If I had known that, I’d certainly have let him go first.

While reflecting on all of this, I realized that what happened in the grocery store was a minor and insignificant event in the whole scheme of things. But it got me thinking about times when I’ve picked up speed in order to beat someone else to the checkout line – or anywhere else – and how smug I felt when I did. And the times I’ve stewed, even for a few minutes, after someone else beat me to the open lane, especially if they sped up and cut me off in order to get there first.

I thought about how good it felt, instead, to step back a moment and give someone else the opportunity to go first. And to have them step back and extend that same courtesy to me. And then how good it felt to let someone know that I noticed and appreciated their kindness. And to feel their appreciation in return.

Courtesy, kindness, patience, gratitude, appreciation. These aren’t things I’ve ever put on my grocery list, or searched the shelves for as I filled up my shopping cart. But it seems they were an unannounced special at the grocery store last week.

And I realize that they’re worth waiting in line for.

September 24, 2021
©Betty Liedtke, 2021

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