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The "Wu Word" Blog

March 2020

The Girl at the Cashier

I have never been your typical “girly girl” who loves to shop endlessly at shoe stores, clothing spots, or make-up shops.  Rather, out of all the places that I absolutely love to shop at, walk endlessly up and down aisles in, price compare, and truly stay hours on end and end up leaving with a cart full of goodies is the grocery store.  Oh, yes, there is nothing that makes me happier than to go food shopping.  All the beautiful boxes so well packaged for advertising, cans stacked up, colorful array of fruit and veggies to greet me, and the smooth and gentle roll of the wheels of the cart as I slide and maneuver my cart in and out.  I suppose that my love for grocery shopping shouldn’t be a surprise coming from a foodie such as I.

However, lately, my utmost love and joy of shopping at food stores has been replaced with a kind of trepidation and uncertainty during these times.  It does not help that many of my family members, closest friends, and even neighbors are reminding me that I am immunosuppressed and should NOT even be going out to this dangerous outside world.  But, who is going to buy and deliver groceries for me? Oh, yes, perhaps Peapod, but I have stubbornly refused this option because I feel like it would be caving in to a growing fear of food shopping when it has always been my love?  Who is going to feed me, myself, and I with living solo?  Only me, I must say.  So, at the insistence of Papa Wu to make sure that I have enough food to feed solo me, I went to the supermarket to get in and out of basic items and necessities. 

I tell you that you NEVER really realize the difference between NEED and WANT until you are thrusted in uncertain times.  I can also tell you what you already know with all the starkingly empty aisles, the need to ration now, the conundrum to try to figure out what to buy and when and how much, the tension that just permeates the food markets now, and the hand sanitizer that now greets me as the first point item rather than a human being, but, instead, I will tell you my latest food shopping story about the girl at the cashier.
After taking pictures of the empty aisles in shock and awe to dear friends and family and trying to figure how much to buy for solo me, but then also having my parents and sister in the back of my mind in case they run out of necessities and then maybe any other peeps that may need something extra, I headed out to check out all my food items.  As expected, there was a line.  And, yes, not going to lie that the line was longer than previous times I had shopped AND the line was continuing to grow because the number of items for each customer had grown exponentially.    Me?  I had nowhere to go, but I had to confess that I wanted more so to leave than to stay for the first time ever in a grocery store.  There was no choice but to wait.  When it finally got to me, I looked at this girl at the cashier who had to be in her 20’s.  She had chin-length light brown hair and, I believe, brown eyes, but they were hard to see with her bright red-framed plastic glasses.  Her eyes were closed and she was muttering to herself.  At first, I thought she was maybe praying.  She opened her eyes slowly.
“Are you ok?” I asked her.
She gave me a lopsided, tired smile and said, “I’m just tired.  It’s been a long day.” 
I paused and replied, “Yes, it has been.”
“I was just telling myself it’s a job.  It’s just a job, right?” she asked me rhetorically, giving me another one of her tired half-smiles. 

I looked behind me at a line of irritated, blank-faced, and sleepy customers.  We were all so tired.  We were all so exhausted.  Then, it struck me how severely exhausted this cashier, all the grocery staffers, cleaning people, garbage collectors, and so many other people were AND, perhaps, how underappreciated they were.  These were all people who had stayed later hours with maybe not the best of pay.  Had anyone ever said ‘thank you’ to them to make them feel like it was more than ‘just a job’?  Had they ever felt appreciated?  This made me sad. 
When I had paid and was about to leave, I looked at the girl at the cashier and said, “I hope your shift ends soon.  Thank you very much for everything.” 
I’ve always been told that I say “THANK YOU” too much, but, perhaps, I need to amp it up now.  I’ve been trying to do that more "Thank Yous" now to the unlikely and underappreciated.   I said it the other day to the cleaning lady in the locker room of my gym who was mopping the floor.  I said it to the hunched over guy at another place I was at who was wiping everything down with Clorox wipes.  “Thank You” is the greatest and smallest way to express gratitude to someone else that can mean the most and lift someone on their hardest of days.  So, “thank you” for and to the girl at the cashier for reminding me this AND that no job is too little or less than anyone else’s, for we all play a part and have an impact that can be in the best of ways or the worst of ways from what we do or do not do in our daily lives of work.  If we can do it in the best of ways, then it does not get any better than that. 
The most unlikely, unseen, and underappreciated may just be the ones who are the hidden heroes that do the most and maybe even deserve the most recognition.  Have you ever felt underappreciated?  Or, maybe, was in a thankless position that you did not want to do, but that you had to do to survive?  When have you paused to maybe show appreciation and kindness for the least likely that are, maybe, likely to do the very most in their own small and seemingly menial ways that are actually the most heroic?    
Keep smilin’ until we meet again,
Mary ;-) 



Approximately a week ago, I timidly stepped into CVS in minimal hopes that there would be some (or really any) cleaning solutions available as my products of protection from the Budlight Virus….oh, wait, I mean the C-virus.  Surely you know even if you live under a sheltered, sturdy rock about the Corona Virus, or what I am calling the C-Virus.  I hated to admit that I was starting to get the surges of anxiety and nerves with the C-Virus and felt it was my utmost duty to try and safeguard my second kidney transplant and weakened immune system with whatever tools I could find. 
I hesitated going up to one of the staff members as it seemed that we were all at a weird time and place of trying to steer clear of people who have the dread G-word of “Germs,” but I truly had no idea which aisle were the following: Clorax wipes, Gloves, Antibacterial sanitzer, and Masks. 
The guy shrugged in complete defeat said, “Out of everything,”

I wondered how many times he had to say this today and when that line of “out of everything” started. I wondered how many pharmacists and staff members were handling ordering supplies only to come to the dawning realization that there simply were not enough supplies for the demand from the mass. 

“Nothing?” I asked.

“Nothing,” he confirmed.

I sighed.  No ammunition.  No protection against the abundance of caution.  I wandered forlorn to the cleaning products in hope that maybe there was a stray rolling Clorax container in the aisle.  And, then, the Hallelujah chorus seemed to boom when my eyes zoned in to the very top shelf of disinfectant sprays.  Yes!  Disinfectant sprays!  Of course, they had to be located where it was the most difficult for me to retrieve.  Victory would be mine! 

Without anyone in sight, I started to try to climb up the shelves.  Then, all of a sudden, the disinfect spray was gone.  I was so focused on trying to climb the shelves that this woman who well had the height, arm lengths, and leverage over my not even 5 foot height had snatched up the very last canister of Lysol disinfectant.  She held the very last Lysol canister as though it was a gleaming trophy.  I stared at her.  I was shocked.  I was speechless. 


Suddenly, the memories began flooding at me when I was brought back in time to May 1995 when I was recovering at home from my second kidney transplant.    Since I was little, germs, kidneys, and immune system were introduced into my world and language, but at 12-years-old in 1995, I really began to understand just how very bad germs, bacteria, and viruses (GBV)  were because they could come at my pre-owned and what was deemed as “foreign” kidney from my donor to attack and conquer to the point that my second kidney transplant would reject and I would lose this gift of life.  To try to stop GBV from coming at me and attach my gift of life second transplant, I was told to stay at home and take my fistfuls of color-coded immunosuppressed medications.   The adults said to me that there was no way I should go back to school that was a bedrock of bad from the cluster and crowds of kids.  This made me sad.   All I wanted was to be like the other kids, but I was in indoors bubbled isolation watching the Spring season bloom before my eyes and yet I could not really go out to enjoy the scent of flowers, the warmth of sunshine, the cool cuts and blades of grass under my bare feet, and, most of all, the contact with other kids that I craved.  I could not really be a kid.  It was like I was an adult trapped in a child’s body. 
I think my circle of adults knew how much I wanted to be with other children because at the end of June and less than two months after receiving my second kidney transplant, my wish to just be with the outside world to touch, taste, see, hear, smell, and really feel everything was granted by going to school on just about the last day known as “Field Day.”  It was the day that ALL (and I do mean ALL) the children were there in color-coded teams playing different sports.  I had never felt like I belonged among my classmates, but for that one day, I felt like I belonged.  Sure, I was in a wheelchair and did not say much, but just being with everyone in this living, breathing, and wonderful world had never made me happier and more carefree.    It was one of the best times in my life just to live and be a kid. 
Shortly after my visit and contact with all the children, I got sick.  Horribly sick.  Sick as in news that my second kidney transplant was going into rejection.  It was probably one of the worst and more depressing points in my life.  The fear to lose a gift from a complete stranger who died only to save my life.  The horror that my one wish granted would be my downfall to me being sick again and that the girl who saved my life would have to suffer another ‘death’ in the sense of her life-saving organ.  Yet, in spite of all the fear and horror, I had no regrets.  I had the best time in my life just being in this breathing world after being bubbled for what I saw as much too long.  I had been around other kids who had shown me kindness and like I did not have ‘cooties.’  They did not fear me or shelter and shield me like the adults just so I could be myself and be a kid.  I did not and could never let fear control and stop me from living my life to the fullest.  I could not live or be in isolation. 


And, I got better.  And, my second kidney transplant thrived and survived at going 25 years this year and counting.  This is the thing:  When it is bad and at the very bottom, we think it can never get better.  We think we can never get through what we see as the worst and darkest of places.  And, yes, it often has to get very bad and at the bottom before it can even try to get better.  Fear, Anxiety, Panic, and the Power of our minds rear their ugly heads to take over and twist us in ways that we never thought we were capable of behaving, acting, and treating ourselves and others.  I was brought back in the present to this woman who had triumphantly succeeded and grabbing the last Lysol Disinfectant.  She then glanced down at me maybe, just maybe, realizing that she had taken the last Lysol disinfect.   She then asked me: “Did you want the Lavender Lysol disinfectant sprays?  I can help you reach them!” 
I wrinkled my nose knowing that permeating my apartment with Lavender would not over well with my kitty cat Ricky and me.  With a substantial space between us, we started chatting and even chuckling about the C-virus.  We were connecting and coming together over a looming crisis. That’s another thing: Crisis can either unite or divide and show the utmost ugly or beauty in people.  I have ever hope in me in unite and the good in people.  I never got this Lysol lady’s name, but I knew that neither of us and none of us can ever really be in isolation.  After chatting with her, I was empty handed of any cleaning solutions, but then I knew what I had accidentally purposefully did: I let her have the very last Lysol can. 
We are not meant to live or be in isolation.  Do you find with everything going on that you are getting more fearful and panicked to the point of isolation?  What are your views and hopes about unite and good vs. divide and bad?  When were you at your very worst with the belief that it would never get better only to someday realize that it had gotten better?  Were you ever in isolation? 
Keep smilin’ until we meet again,
Mary ;-) 

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