In some ways, things become simpler as you get older. At 22-years-old, I was pretty predictable. At 42, you can go ahead and set your watch by me. It’s okay. I don’t mind. If you need me I can be found in one of only five places: at work, at home, at the grocery store, at church, or at the gym (Not exercising, silly. Watching my kids.)
My social interactions have also simplified. I communicate face to face with with my work associates and clients, other bleacher parents, people at church, my family and all those folks at the grocery store. And THAT, my friends, is my exciting life. With daily adventures like this, it is really no wonder I blog. People who aren’t comfortable with risks themselves, can live through me.
Can we talk about the grocery store? Since one-fifth of my life is spent there, I’ve had time to learn some things. Here’s the most important thing I’ve learned: baby carrots taste kind of like bleach, and they’re overpriced; you’re risking your flippin’ lives when you buy them, people! Sometimes you just have to create your own excitement, you know? That’s not really what I’ve learned (although regular sized carrots really are the way to go.) Here’s the real thing I’ve learned at the grocery store: being nice matters.
Let’s be honest with each other and admit that most of us are not our best selves when we grocery shop. Most of us are usually racing against the clock. We’re shopping and simultaneously working through a mental check list of all the other things we need to get done. For most of us, grocery shopping is done in a state of automation.
I don’t love admitting this, but occasionally (let’s go with 1 out of 60 trips) I walk into the grocery store with a heart that hurts and holding tight to a bunch of unshed tears. Just once in a while, you know? Not a lot. Seriously. Just when I get weary of battling, and feel like a broken heart will always be my lot in life. I would guess on any given day there’s a handful (maybe more) of these kinda folks walking the aisles. People are tough. They can carry around some pretty heavy stuff: their marriage may be falling apart, they just lost someone they love, they’re being abused, they’ve recently been diagnosed with something terrifying or they have a child who has been sick for most of his life, and no matter what they do he just won’t get better.
THOSE are the days when I realize this: being nice matters. When the teenager behind the meat counter is super polite and says, “please, take your time.” I appreciate his patience.
When the arthritic cashier works hard to lift her hand high enough to give me my change, and then smiles and tells me to have a nice day, I feel it in my heart.
When I see the Asian woman who I’m pretty sure works seven days a week stocking the health food aisle. She speaks broken English. When she sees me she asks with a smile and gentle voice, “You have nice holiday? It good to see you again. Stay warm.” I want to do something nice for her in return.
And, when the neat and tidy elderly women bags my groceries. She smiles at me with her light blue, crinkly eyes. She pats my arm while looking me straight in the eye and says in the sweetest grandma voice, “I hope you have a good day, dear.” I may just go ahead and shed one or two of those tears on my way out; I feel like giving that little lady a hug.
Nice is not just an adjective. Being nice is a verb. Being nice is an action with consequence. Being nice can change things. Being nice can provide comfort and relief. Being nice can alter emotions and mood. Being nice can restore. And you just never know when being nice will deliver a little warmth in to the broken heart of a random grocery shopper. I really want to be nice.