I don't know her last name. I don't where she lives. All I really know is:
- she works at my neighborhood grocery store and
- that she's had a hard life
You see, I never want to be one to make people's day harder - I really live in a way that when other's paths cross mine their day is better - I have for years purposefully picking Diane's line (even when hers was longer than the others) and looking for something kind to say to this weary looking, downcast soul I encounter every week.
Once - and only once - did I see Diane outside of the store. We crossed paths at a Little League baseball game. I said "hello!" as did she. A little barefoot, dirty child followed me after I said my greetings. With stringy hair and a smile full of cavities she poked me and said, "Hey! How do you know my Mom anyway?" Knowing instinctively I was looking at Diane's daughter I said the first that popped into my mind, "Oh! Your mom is my faaaaaaaa-vaorite cashier at the store!"
I've never seen a child physically beam. The grin that took over her face was genuinely heavenly. I had the distinct feeling I gave that girl a little gift that night. Her mamma is worthy of praise!
And it was true. Diane had become my favorite cashier.
Over the years, while she rang up my milk, bread and eggs, I found out bits and pieces about Diane's life: her son was in prison, her job was often on the line and she had a bad back that required a surgery she couldn't afford.
Two weeks ago I was picking through the bananas at the store when Diane approached me. I knew immediately that something was up - she never left her post at the register to greet me. Our unwritten rule of conduct always demanded no exchange of words until I was in her lane.
"Hey" she said as she kindly touched my back "I just wanted you to know I quit. I'm leaving the store. But don't say nuthin', I'm only telling a few customers." and she walked on. I wanted to engage her more, to find out why or where she's going but as I looked into her face I couldn't form the words. Was she crying?
I shopped on anxious to get my items so I could get to her lane and ask some questions.
She told me her "boy's gettin' out and he needs a fresh start". She said her dad lived near Chicago and she "was gunna go live with him". She said she didn't want to but she thought it was the best for her kids.
I wished her all my best, encouraged her as only a mother can to another struggling mother and promised I'd be back before her last day.
I immediately went home and circled it on my calendar.
Today was Diane's last day.
I didn't need any groceries this morning. I just went in for a pack of gum. When our eyes connected I knew she knew I didn't need any gum. "I just wanted to say goodbye" I said. This time I was sure she was tearing up. "Yep!" she said.
"Take care of yourself", I said.
"I'll try" she said.
"I mean it" I said.
"Ok" she said and turned away.
I left. I didn't want to embarrass her. I simply wanted her to know that I've meant it all these years - she was my favorite cashier, that I cared for her.
I imagine the store was happy to see her go. I don't know for sure but I have an inclination this is true. She often texted on her phone while dealing with customers. She didn't have a very positive attitude and often I saw shady looking characters chatting with her while she was on the clock.
To them, perhaps, Diane was a bad employee. Maybe even her coworkers are happy to see her move on. But not me. I didn't have to work with her or rely on her. I simply stood in her line and saw a sad woman in desperate need of encouragement.
You see, relationships have different dynamics, don't they? But different isn't bad. I might think fondly of Diane while others don't. And that's ok. We each have our own experiences.
All I know is this; if we look for places to bring light we will find them. If we want to make a difference we can. If we see someone who is sad, even someone we barely know, we can (and should) proactively be an agent of positiveness.
What does it hurt anyway? to be kind?
Find someone today to be kind to won't you?
Smile at the cashier. Look the waitress in the eye. When you ask someone "How they are" wait for their answer. Perhaps you could meet a Diane. Perhaps she needs you to really see her. Who knows if she's dying to be some one's favorite? Could she be yours?