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A Lesson in Humanity

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Screen shot 2013-02-18 at 3.03.34 PM

I went grocery shopping today.  I went to Walmart because I needed a few things other than just food and Walmart is the cheapest place to buy things.  I hate Walmart.

In usual fashion, once I was done shopping and had to check out, all of 4 lanes were open and the lines to check out were backed into the middle aisle at the front of the store.  It was already a waiting game, so I just picked one.  As Justin will tell you (because he tells me so often), I have a decent amount of patience.  Especially with people.  Having to stand in line for a while to check out doesn’t usually bother me.  It’s just a part of life; you wait to check out and pay and then go home and put stuff away.  And it never fails – every time I go to Walmart and have to wait in line, the person in front of me always has a problem.  Something won’t scan the right price, the technology that is supposed to be making checking out faster fails…it’s always something.  And it’s always in front of me.

But today, the wait was worth it.

The poor man in front of me was buying many large items.  One item was a 24-pack of bottled water, and another was a huge bag of wild bird food.  He took his time unloading the large items onto the conveyor belt only to be told that the associate could scan them from the buggy.  So then he took the same care to load the items back into the buggy.  She scanned them and then passed the smaller items over the scanner and into plastic bags.  She rang up the total and he tried to swipe his debit card.  And tried again.  And continued trying for the next almost 10 minutes.  The associate attempted to take the card on her side of the register and swipe it there.  No dice.  Then she tried with a plastic bag over the strip, as I’d seen other retailers do before.  Still didn’t work.  She tried keying the card in manually, but a receipt finally printed saying the card couldn’t be taken.  Finally the man pulled a different card out of his wallet.  After walking him through the process for using a card at the register for what had to be the 20th time, the register accepted the new card.  The man apologized to me for holding up the line, and I told him it was all right.  He left and went on his way.

The entire time this poor man was struggling with the first card, the sales associate was more than nice.  More than patient.  She was kind.  It really took me aback because kindness isn’t usually something exhibited at a checkout line, much less in retail.  But this girl handled the situation in utmost poise.  She diligently tried to help this man, without a huge huffing breath, without rolling her eyes, and without calling in for help so someone else could “deal” with him.  And she did the whole transaction with a smile.  It was one of the sweetest things I’ve ever seen: a person being kind to another person for no reason.  The situation was irritating, even for onlookers in the line, and really even for me.  She would have been entitled to get irritated, or to walk around to the man in a huff and dramatically point out to him where it said to enter his PIN.  But she didn’t do any of that.  She simply tried her best to help him.

Once I got up to check out, I thanked her for being so kind.  She just sort of shrugged me off and said, “I just always think – that could be my dad.”

Karma, Golden Rule, whatever you want to call it, kindness is a very important thing to pass on.  We certainly need more of it.

What a lesson.

I’m actually glad I went to Walmart today.  I really needed to witness something like that.

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