Story by Leanne Willen
A few years ago, I was standing in the checkout line at the grocery store. I had just had my third baby a month earlier, and it was one of my first ventures out into the world on my own with the kids. I don’t remember much about the actual shopping part, but I will never forget what happened while we were waiting to pay for our groceries.
My kids were restless by that time and so was I. The baby was tired of his car seat and my two preschoolers were antsy to get out of the store. Suddenly, the baby started screaming and I was forced to take him out of his seat. This gave my older two the perfect opportunity to jump around, grab candy from the shelf, and climb up and down on the shopping cart while I was distracted.
I was having trouble calming the baby and I was a bit overwhelmed. I could feel everyone around us staring at the spectacle we were making. I started to panic as I swayed and shushed and corralled all the kids. I turned back toward my grocery cart to begin putting my items on the conveyor with one arm while using the other to hold the baby and keep track of the two big kids.
To my alarm, my cart was nearly empty. I looked up to find a woman with the kindest eyes and warmest smile staring back at me. She had been in front of me, ready to check out with only a few items. Instead, she put all my groceries up for me and let me go in front of her. She even offered to hold the baby while I paid.
My eyes began to brim with tears as I thanked her.
She smiled again and said, “I don’t mind at all. I remember those days. You’re doing a great job, mama.”
With that, I paid the cashier and got everyone loaded up to head out of the store.
I think about that woman a lot, though I don’t know her name and wouldn’t be able to pick her out in a crowd. It was such a simple thing to do, but it truly changed my entire day. It changed my perspective, and it changed me.
She was so friendly and kind. She went out of her way to help me. Beyond that, though, she just stepped in and helped. She didn’t say, “Do you want some help?” She didn’t say, “Oh you’ve got your hands full.” She didn’t ask or wait for me to ask, she just did it.
So often we have the best of intentions. We want to help others and we warmly offer to do so. We say things like, “Let me know if you need anything” and “I’m here for you” and we wait passively for them to tell us what they need. Why?
We’re too busy? We’re afraid? We’re not sure what to do?
Most of the time, the people who need help won’t ever ask. Sometimes it’s because they’re so overwhelmed they don’t know what they need. Sometimes it’s because it’s too humbling and hard to ask for and accept help.
But, we need each other. We can’t make it in this crazy, chaotic world without friends and loved ones and total strangers in the checkout line to help us.
Let’s keep our eyes open to those who need us. Let’s step in with genuine and tangible help. Let’s hold the baby, encourage, let someone in front of us in line, put the groceries on the conveyor, bring over dinner, offer to babysit, hold the door open, help someone to her car, smile. Whatever it is that springs to mind in the moment, let’s do it.
Think of how we could change the course of someone’s day. Think of how we might change someone’s perspective. Think of how we might change someone.
Think of how we might change ourselves.
Life happens when we step in and help.
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