Thursday, October 1, 2015

First impressions are important. The old saying, “don’t judge a book by its cover,” serves, for me, as a reminder to go beyond my first impression of people I come across. But, I’m human and I make judgments, sometimes too quickly.

On Monday morning, I was in a hurry to get to the office, but had to make a quick detour to the store first. I breezed through, picking up the few items I needed, only to be greeted at the front of the store by a long line and one open register. I huffed and puffed until a man two ahead of me was directed by an associate to another checkout station. Begrudgingly, I asked the girl in front of me if she’d like to go over to the newly-opened line. She declined after seeing I only had a few items in my hands.

I rushed over to the other lane and stood behind the man who was purchasing a single item. I thought, “Finally, this will go quickly, and I can be on my way.” Not so fast, Mary. The man’s card was declined. I was annoyed...his purchase was for less than one dollar!

At this point, I began to observe what was happening in front of me. The older man was buying a store-brand two liter of soda. His clothes appeared as though he’d been outside for days, if not longer, and he was badly needing a shower and a shave. He politely and patiently asked the associate to swipe the card again, only this time for eighty-five cents instead of the full ninety-seven he owed. This time, the purchase cleared his pre-paid debit card, though he still owed twelve cents.

The gentle-spoken, Santa Claus of a man proceeded to count twelve pennies from a small coin purse in his pocket. It was then that I realized that this man was struggling to pay for something that cost less than one dollar, and my impatience and annoyance started to melt away. He completed his purchase and walked out of the store, leaving me with a heavy heart.

After paying for my items, I left the store and saw the man walking slowly on the sidewalk. I reached in my wallet and grabbed $20. Walking briskly to catch up to him, I got his attention and handed him the twenty. He held it in his hand, looked me in the eye, and began to cry. He hugged me, thanked me profusely, and we both went on our way.

Sometimes, we are busy and get caught up in where we have to be next. But, at times, it pays to stop and observe what is going on around you. I don’t know what the person in front of me at Walgreens on the Monday morning of my thirty-second birthday is going through. But, if in a single moment, I can make someone’s day, that’s a feeling worth more than a $20 birthday gift to myself could have bought me.

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