A Chance Encounter with a Smiling Lady
By Jeff Salter
Wanted to share a warming experience from early May, nine years ago (2011).
It was Senior Discount Day at the grocery so I took my Mom… & she had another errand to add to the two unrelated matters I needed to tend to. In other words: a very busy afternoon for me — not to mention needing to get my lesson ready to teach the 1st & 2nd graders at church that evening.
So we finally get to Kroger & the lot is completely full (of course). Inside, I finally weave my way among all the congestion in the aisles — not to mention the employees with loaded dollies stocking the shelves. Plus, there was a display of a huge outdoor metal table & chairs right in the middle of the check-out area (blocking two of the lanes).
I had already finished all of my shopping & had to wait another 25 minutes – while my frozen items thawed – for my Mom to finish hers.
As I waited, I noticed the numerous faces passing by me. Many – as I’ve previously noted – expressed confusion, exhaustion, worry, frustration, or impatience… & some even anger. A few individuals displayed ‘blank’ (neutral) expressions… but hardly any showed a smile.
Among all these, one woman stood out. She was smiling, quietly joking with others, & seemed to be ‘friends’ with several people around her. [I soon realized those were probably strangers though she treated them like friends.] She was not boisterous, which would have perturbed me — after all, I was in a grumpy mood… with all these errands, all this congestion, & all this waiting.
But I watched her. She was about my age, I suppose. Dressed comfortably & modestly, slightly taller than many women I know — & her face literally glowed from her smile & manner. She was in a slow-moving line – everybody in the store had over-flowing baskets – about two lanes away from me… & joshing with the people in front & behind her.
My Mom finally appeared & we got into the line I’d been hovering near for the past 25 minutes. I actually cleared my check-out before the smiling lady cleared hers… so I continued to watch her. She was infectious: she had the clerk smiling & the people in her slow-moving line. In fact, I’d say she brightened up that entire portion of the store!
I wanted to speak to her, but men my age have to be careful addressing unknown females — it’s easy for some of them to take offense or be fearful… or, at least, to misinterpret the male’s intentions. So, I dithered (whether to speak or not). Then I figured it might be a moot issue since my Mom was nearly checked-out & we were about to leave. Then the smiling woman cleared her lane & went to the customer service desk for something. That was right next to where I’d been standing & waiting. So I took the gamble & spoke.
“You have a lovely smile… & a very refreshing attitude,” I said.
Her face had not stopped radiating its positive, encouraging glow since I’d first spotted her nearly 20 minutes previously. But she responded with even a more radiant smile & thanked me. I can’t recall her exact words, but she said something about we all have to shop so we may as well make the best of it. I wish I could recall her specific phrasing.
Not wanting to belabor the compliment (or slow her down), I just smiled my agreement, bade her farewell, & moved away… followed by my Mom, who ALSO stopped & spoke with this woman. My mom is nearly deaf, so she could not have heard what I’d said. And I was already far enough away that I didn’t hear what my Mom said… but the two of them chatted amicably for a few moments & I heard the smiling lady compliment ME. Then my Mom identified herself as my mother & the smiling lady complimented HER.
What’s the moral to this story?
No moral. Just a heart-warming experience with a lovely lady who chooses to be positive & friendly… & shares her smile with everyone nearby. I wanted to stop her in the parking lot & ask when she’d be back… so I could get another dose of her wonderful attitude. But I didn’t — she was busy sharing her smile with people who were walking from their vehicles toward the store.
I had entered the store feeling stressed and harried… but I left feeling like I had been blessed.
When I posted this account on Facebook that evening, here are the most pertinent responses:
* See, the lady’s attitude caused you to “pass it on” and now others are smiling as well. Maybe all of us need to remember that our mood can affect others, and put on our “happy faces.”
* One person can make a difference! Plus smiles are contagious and do brighten atmospheres!!
My friend, Llewelyn Tucker, simply posted this quote (by Anthony J. D’Angelo): “Wherever you go, no matter what the weather, always bring your own sunshine.”
Well, this lady (at Kroger, on a Wednesday afternoon in early May, nine years ago) definitely brought her own sunshine.
When we got situated into my truck, I asked my Mom – who’d had no way of hearing what I’d said to the lady (or why I’d spoken) – why she (Mom) had stopped to speak with this woman. Did Mom know her? Recognize her?
“No,” my Mom said. “She just looked like the kind of person I’m friendly with.”
Have you ever encountered someone who’s pleasant attitude and actions totally turned around your own attitude for that moment?
[JLS # 499]