Value for the dollar

I made one of my infrequent pilgrimages to the laundromat the other day to wash our summer quilt in the big commercial washer. As it swished and tumbled, I went across the shopping center to that hotbed of enticement and random purchases — the dollar store. As I browsed, I heard a man say to his coworker he was going outside for a few minutes and just come get him if she needed anything. Along the way, he passed a customer wrestling with some helium balloons…”Do you need help tying those? Let me help you,” he said, postponing his break to offer a hand. “My hands don’t work so good,” she said. He laughed and agreed, “Oh I have days like that!”

I heard him several other times as I made my way up and down the aisles…pleasant, engaging, talking with everyone. When I was ready to check out, he was behind the counter. He joked with the older woman in front of me, loaded up with little pocket packs of tissue. “Looks like you’re getting ready for flu season,” he said.

She explained that, no, she was doing a “project” for a local personal care home. As he rang up her dozen-plus toothbrushes and other odds and ends, he told her how nice that was and what a shame it was that so many people forget about our elderly, “Out of sight, out of mind, as they say,” he commented. “I still try to send a little something every year to the place my grandfather was in. He died 20 years ago, but they took such good care of him….” With another customer, he talked about growing up with 2 brothers and how they were always wrestling and getting into trouble. And how now he always tells them if they plan to eat Thanksgiving at mom’s, they better get there early to help her.

I left thinking, “Now there’s someone I would like to be friends with.” He was so  genuinely friendly and nice, and clearly a kind soul.

Should I mention he had a very gay-sounding voice? It’s probably what I first noticed about him. As I walked back to the laundromat to retrieve my quilt, I got to thinking how that little town (a bit north of here) wasn’t likely the most tolerant place to grow up. Yet here was someone who seemed to take life in stride and come out smiling. Who didn’t have a glamorous job, but seemed to really enjoy it. Who left someone like me thinking, “Wow, I’m sure if I dealt with the public all day, no one would walk away thinking I was the most pleasant person on earth.”

To paraphrase Jack Nicholson in As Good As It Gets, he made me want to be a better person. After 10 minutes of being around him.

It wasn’t what I expected when I decided to kill time that day…this gift worth far more than any dollar I could ever spend.

Never mind searching for who you are.
Search for the person you aspire to be.
~ Robert Brault

1 Comment

  1. Thursday, December 2, 2010 at 11:15 am

    nice one, Chris — good chuckle on the “no one would walk away thinking I was the most pleasant”! me too!!

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