29 Jan Kindness Counts
I know…I know…the title of this post sounds like a catch phrase you would see written on a poster, hanging on the wall of a school cafeteria.
But here’s the thing – it’s absolutely true. A little bit of kindness, a small gesture, a random act of help…it can go a long way.
Yesterday I went to the German grocery store – which, although it’s getting better – can still be a harrowing experience for me.
I had my daughter and baby with me.
First of all, here are a few things that are different at the German grocery stores:
- They don’t bring their kids with them. They just don’t. You will rarely see German kids at the grocery store. Germans typically tend to stay close to their families. They don’t move hundreds of miles away, to a different state or a different country, even. They stay in the same village they’ve been in for the past 20 years or they move one village down the road. That’s it. So…when they go grocery shopping, they can drop their kids off at grandma’s house.
- If they do bring their children with them, and that is a big IF, their kids are quiet and well-behaved. They aren’t running around the store, touching things, yelling for this or that, whining for candy, or just being plain loud. (I basically just described my kids at the store, in case you were wondering.)
- They tend to only buy a few items and by this I mean a loaf of bread and some eggs or some veggies and 1 lb of meat for dinner. They don’t grocery shop for the entire week like we Americans tend to do. They go more often. Plus, their refrigerators are much smaller than ours so they can’t fit as much in there. (The Army loaned us a big American fridge while we are here – so we actually have 2.)
- They don’t have baggers. You bring your own bags and you bag them yourself. If you forget your re-usable bags (like I often do) you either buy more or pile all of the items back into the grocery cart – Which, either way, screams “Hey! Look at me! I’m an American!”
So, there I was…with my daughter and my baby at the grocery store. My daughter was walking along next to me and my son (the baby) was riding in the cart. And he was being LOUD. Not screaming or crying…just babbling – but loudly. I swear, even the German babies don’t babble as loudly as the American babies do. And he was missing a sock – because he likes to pull them off and leave them places…and I didn’t know where it was.
So, as I said, there I was…with my daughter and my one-sock baby and I was filling my cart. With produce. And milk. And yogurt. And frozen items. For the entire week.
And then we get in line to check out. And there is only one check-out line open. And as I am putting all of my items on the conveyor belt for the entire week, I look behind me to see a long line forming…because these people only have a few items – like a box of cereal and a liter of milk or a package of bratwurst and a pound of potatoes.
I unload the items as fast as I can while my son starts to fuss and my daughter keeps asking me for Tic-Tacs and “Can I please have some? I have money at home. I think I have enough. Can I please have them?”
Now, here is the worst part for me – the actual bagging of the groceries. It’s not hard, I know…but when people are staring at you and your baby is fussing and your daughter keeps asking for things and you become more and more flustered so you start fumbling with things while you are trying to put them in the bags that you had to buy because you forgot yours, yet again….it’s hard.
At one point, the cashier actually had to stop scanning items because there was no more room in the bagging area. At first, I wasn’t sure why she stopped, until a man came over and said, “Do you need help?”
At first I said, “No, thank you,” but then I looked behind me at the 10 people waiting (seriously, there were 10 in line by this time) and changed my mind. “Well…okay.”
He came over, helped me put the groceries in the bag and even made little cooing noises to my son and played with his feet and smiled at my daughter.
He was very kind. And even though it was a little thing that he did, it was a BIG thing to me.
I thanked him several times and told him to have a good day.
I wish I could do more for him. I wish he knew how much that little gesture meant to me. That his kindness eased the anxiety welling up inside as I looked at the sea of faces in line behind me…that his kindness made me think that maybe I don’t stick out as much here as I thought…but even if I do, it doesn’t really matter…that his kindness gave me hope that maybe it isn’t so scary here…
Because in the end, we are all just people – made up of the same stuff… just flesh and bones…and we all need help and we all just want the same things – to belong, to be accepted and to connect.
This is my way of saying “Thank you” to him, wherever he is.
Cheers to Balance,