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,