I have been delighting in dollar store finds as of late, hitting up the two chain stores we have in town to see what sparks my interest. I tend to shop while The Hobbit is at school, which means I am shopping in the early morning hours of retail, and my fellow shoppers tend to be a.) other moms with small children, b.) retirees, and c.) the unemployed. It makes for some interesting people watching, and lately I have encountered a surprising number of people practicing kindness in unlikely ways, which in turn gives me a little spark of hope that I am able to pass on to others.
Two days ago, I was at one of these discount stores, standing in line behind a somewhat jittery and indecisive guy who kept wandering away from the line to grab other items for his basket while eating a bag of Cheetos and drinking a bottle of soda that had not yet been purchased. This drives me nuts. It’s not yours if you haven’t paid for it, you haven’t completed the social contract between the seller and buyer. The store has not issued you credit, so you aren’t functioning on the agreed upon basis of good faith. It flat out petty theft to eat food that hasn’t been purchased. My four year old has more self-control than the adults I see doing this, and by and large, it IS adults who do this (in my observation). Just because you’re in line with the intention of of buying it doesn’t mean jack. It won’t kill people to wait 3 minutes to pay. To quote one of my uncles, “I’m just sayin’.” Insert eye roll and deep sigh here.
I was annoyed with this guy for eating before paying, and then he kept getting out of line and returning to his spot. Another petty annoyance. But, because I hate conflict and was raised by Southerners (if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all), I said nothing, just quietly fumed behind this morally ambiguous annoyance flitting around in front of me. Then, Mr. Munchie was one person away from the cashier when he strikes up a conversation with the guy behind me, someone he apparently knows. Oh geeze. Now I was not only annoyed but trapped in the middle of a conversation that I was not a part of.
It went like this:
Mr. Munchie: Hey man, how’s it goin’?
Guy Behind Me: Good, good.
Mr. Munchie: (swallows Cheetos) You need me to get somethin’ for you?
Guy Behind Me: What? You got money?
Mr. Munchie: Naw, but I could get you like… five items if you need it. What you got?
Guy Behind Me: Just this. (Holds up some milk.)
Mr. Munchie: Go get you a couple more things, I got this.
Guy Behind Me: Thanks, man.
By the time this exchange had transpired, Mr. Munchie had reached his turn at the cashier. I was starting to feel a bit more kindly towards him because he had offered to pay for his friend’s food even though it was not something he could truly afford, but still annoyed because now I had to wait for the guy behind me to go grab a couple more items so Mr. Munchie could pay. I was determined to be patient and not to be grouchy since Mr. Munchie was sharing his limited resources, when he looked at the cashier then back and me and said, “Here, let her go first while my friend gets his stuff.”
That caught me off guard. I was shocked, and feeling schooled in the art of kindness by a guy I had been so judgemental about. But it was a good reminder that kindness is not beyond us and it can rise up from unlikely places.