So, I pledged to participate in the Generosity Day Project and made some donations on Feb. 13th. On Feb. 14th, I pledged to myself that I would not just take the easy way out and make my contributions solely monetary darts thrown from the comfy, cozy chair in front of my computer.
The giver gets the gift
Every where I went, I tried to think, “what would be generous to do here”.
And while standing at the checkout line at Walmart, I tried to figure out something generous to do. Several people came up after me with much smaller loads than I had but the cashier had already started processing my items. It was too late to let them go ahead of me. Dang. Then I thought about offering to pay for their items. But there was that whole monetary darts thing. And besides it really would have just seemed, well, weird. Especially given that several of them were buying valentinesy kinds of things.
Can’t you just hear it:
Valentine: Honey, you shouldn’t have (brought me this fabulous gift from Walmart)
Gift Giver: Uhm, actually, I didn’t.
Gift Giver: Nevermind, it’s too weird to explain
Almost everyone who got behind me quickly changed over to the express lane. Except one man. He was a much older man in a mobile shopping cart. He was already moving kind of slow so my multitude of c.r.a.p. didn’t seem too daunting.
Ah-ha. There was my chance. I offered to load his items on to the conveyer belt for him. I was careful to say “would you like help” rather than “do you need help”, in an effort to not offend him. His face wrinkled and he kind of smirked and said he could do it. He wasn’t insulted but he also wasn’t thrilled that I had noticed that maybe he couldn’t do it alone.
Feeling a little uneasy and thinking he might be feeling it too, I joked that it was Valentine’s Day and said “hey, today of all days we should try to be nice to each other, right?”
He agreed. Then he joked back and said that if he wasn’t married, he would ask me to be his valentine. And don’t worry, it wasn’t in a creepy-I’d-better-be-careful-walking-back-to-my-car kind of way. Just in a nice, funny way. Totally like my grandfather would have done.
And I said pretty much the same thing back. And he laughed and looked a little sad at the same time.
He said that when he isn’t sitting in a cart, he is 6’2″ tall and that it is interesting to look up at people.He said it gave him a whole new perspective – this opportunity to look up. He almost seemed like he felt invisible when he was in the cart. That must be quite a change for a man who used to stand 6’2″ and tower over nearly everyone else.
Anyway, we laughed and had a nice chat. And when I turned to leave the store, we both had little bitty tears in our eyes. He seemed so appreciative of not being overlooked and he reminded me so much of my grandfather that I couldn’t help but get choked up a tad. And then he said, “your husband is a lucky man.”
I know, awwwwwww.
How I ended up with the bigger smile is maybe not such a mystery. I started out to just do something kind – something so simple as stop and help another person – and I ended up having a nice conversation, making someone smile, and being flooded with memories of one of my most favorite people in the whole universe. All in about 2.5 minutes. (All while I would have been otherwise just standing and waiting – doing nothing important.)
As I got in the car to drive away, I didn’t check my rear view mirror to make sure he wasn’t following me. I simply wondered why, why, why.
Why don’t we stop being so distracted so that we can enjoy interactions with those around us. Even if we don’t know them?
Why are we so busy that we ignore what a plain old smile or a helping hand can cure?
Why can’t we just slow down and breathe deeply and exhale slowly so that we can fully enjoy the precious minutes we are given?
I started off by trying to help him and his smile rippled right through my memories and warmed my heart. It’s true that the giver gets the greatest gift.