January 31, 2007

A Lesson In Line

Her name was Shelby. She works at the market where I buy my groceries. Yesterday while waiting in line to purchase my groceries I learned a lesson in compassion and the importance of kindness. Shelby couldn't have been more than sixteen years old, slight in build and shy in nature. Shelby was having a bad day. I mean a really, really bad day. The line was long, and to go along with that long line were some very bad tempers. I watched with sadness as the people in front of me seemed to take out every frustration they had ever had in life out on poor Shelby. Shelby was trying her very best but even her best was not good enough for these people. Criticisms were muttered under their breath as well as much sighing and eye rolling. One lady kept changing her mind, paper, no plastic, no plastic, no paper, can't you move faster, what's wrong with you, I hate this store, . . . . ..don't squish my tomatoes, watch out for my eggs . .. . and then the unthinkable happened. Poor Shelby got so flustered that she dropped the entire carton of eggs right there on the floor. As she looked down at the shattered mess I couldn't help but think that she was feeling right then just liked that ruined carton of eggs looked. I saw tears well up in her eyes as she surveyed the damage and I wanted to run over to her and scoop her up and hold her in my arms as if she were my baby.

Shelby was beaten down. She was beaten down by unkind words and unkind actions. As it came time for me to be rung up, Shelby looked at me with a timid face all the while preparing for the next assault. I looked her straight in the eye and said, "Shelby, I am so sorry that you are having such a bad day." She looked at me as if she didn't know how to respond. I think she was wondering "where I was coming from and what did I mean by that." I then proceeded to tell her that I thought she was doing a great job. Her whole face relaxed into this big, beautiful smile and I literally saw a flood of relief come over her. I told her that I wanted to go buy her a soda or a cup of coffee and bring it back to her. At first she said, "excuse me?" I repeated myself and then she politely said, "no thank you." I then proceeded to tell her about my first day on the job of a local fast food restaurant and some of the mishaps I had been through. I even managed to get her to laugh a little! As I was leaving I told her that she was going to be fine, just take her time and do her best. That's all anyone can do. As I was leaving I heard the gentleman that was behind me in line say, "Shelby, you are doing great, don't you worry." A smile then crossed MY face because of the goodness and kindness of others. I realized that it takes the same amount of time and energy to be kind as it does to be unkind. I saw first hand that words DO hurt. I also saw first hand how easy it is to "shatter" the self-esteem of another human being. I saw that we can choose to show compassion just as easy as we can choose to show intolerance. I realized that can choose to be patient or we can be impatient. The bottom line is that it is up to us. We can either "tear down" or "build up." We can either spread darkness or spread light. There are many other Shelbys out there in this world. When we encounter one it will be up to us how we choose to respond. I know I will choose to respond with love!
Picture courtesy of All Posters


Sandra said...

Wow, what an excellent post! You're so right --- our words and attitude can tear people down or build them up. Thanks for the reminder to be the "builder-upper"!

Kelli said...

Susan, this story brought tears to my eyes. I think it was God's plan for you to be in her checkout line so you could give her those sweet words of encouragment. I'll bet she will never forget your kindness. Thank you for the lesson that our words do matter.

Anonymous said...

Hi Susan~
Thanks for this post~
I actually am sensitive myself with words and can get hurt easily so I always try and encourage with my words too.
Words can hurt people SOOOO easily and seems you can never forget those hurtful words either. It is very important to watch what we say and how we say and the eye rolling... etc.
Thanks for being you and for this post.

~ Candy

Mississippi Girl said...

Thanks so much for sharing this story, Susan... it made me cry. You are SO right, many times we can make a difference in just the smallest little things that we do. Great story.
Jennifer R.

Jodi said...

Ah, Susan, out of the mouth the heart is revealed! I think the domino effect of words is so well illustrated in what you shared. And all it took was one kind word, a ministry all in itself!

Mrs.B. said...

This post really touched me. Thank you so much for the reminder. (o:


Mrs. U said...

At first, I started crying for Shelby because I've been there. Not in the same kind of job, but in the same "bad day" kind of position.

Then I cried because of your kindness. How simple it is to show love and kindness and you did!!

Last I cried because of the kindness of the sweet man behind you in line. Was he kind because he saw the hurt in Shelby's eyes like you did? Or was he kind because he realized Shelby was hurt AFTER you showed kindness? Who knows, but kindness has such a profound, contagious effect!!

Thank you so much for sharing this!! What a GREAT reminder to us all!

Mrs. U

Helpmate said...

What an incredible story. I bet Shelby now looks to see if you're waiting in her line! Thanks for encouragement and putting things in perspective for me. I, too, will make a difference in someone's day today.

Copper's Wife said...

I am so glad that you were there to brighten Shelby's day! And see? Your kindness was contagious and passed on to the man behind you, and maybe even further. Thanks for the reminder to watch words and actions.

Sharon Kay said...

Hi Susan, Another wonderful post. It is so true about how you speak to another can build them up or tare them down. I an glad you and the man behind you were in that line on that day. You made her feel better after others tore her down. A lesson for every one, every day

Tammy said...

this is such a great post...If you don't mind I would like to send it to another blogger that emailed me the day before yesterday...she was having a really bad day because of another blogger that was critical and actually "blacklisted" her if you can believe it! Thanks so much for sharing love with dear Shelby and I hope that all that read this will remember the lesson!!

Rose said...

Wow what a heartfelt post. We need more people like you in this world. A friend of mine Tammy sent me your email and I',m glad she did.

Maggie Ann said...

Just over visiting from Sharon Kay's blog. You have a lovely homey blog...I've enjoyed my visit.=)

Karen said...

I just experienced this myself, yesterday. It always surprises me that people can be so rude. What happened to "Love one another"? I felt so sorry for the checker at my store, and for Shelby, too. You were a blessing to her. You have a beautiful heart.

Susan P. said...

Tammy, absolutely!

annewithane65 (Kim) said...

Susan, what a wonderful post...you've blessed Shelby in a way that will stay with her for the rest of her life!

smilnsigh said...

A beautiful, beautiful post. Thank you.