My friend laid under her blankets for the rest of the day, not wanting to engage in any sort of conversation. She was completely exhausted from an incident that had occurred earlier that morning. I was compassionately curious to know what happened to have caused her such distress and exhaustion.
A few days after New Years she was shopping at the grocery store close to her home. The store was exceptionally busy – the holidays had everyone indulging and now, on the same morning, everyone needed to replenish their fridges and cupboards. My friend made her way up and down the crowded aisles and finally up to the check-out. She was third in line away from the cashier – a young woman in her twenties who was not happy with the workload that came with a crowded store. While waiting for her turn, my friend casually observed the shopper at the front of the line – a lady, pregnant and appearing to be new to the country, was carefully watching and counting the total price of her items.
The cashier asked the lady if she needed to buy bags. The lady replied with a quiet mumble.
In a rude tone she asked again, “Do you need bags?”
She softly mumbled again.
Unable to get an answer she impatiently snapped, “Do you need bags? I can’t hear you! I said, do you need bags? I don’t understand what you’re saying!”
With her head down in embarrassment, she mumbled again.
My friend, now intently observing, was beginning to stir with rage – the type of rage that comes when you witness injustice right in front of you. My friend (like myself) is a peacekeeper and a person that does not like confrontation. The stirring inside turned into a ‘huff’ of discontentment and anger, but she knew that this was not enough. Stepping out of her place in line she went directly to the lady and said to her, “I will pay for your groceries.” With her voice quivering and legs shaking she then turned to the cashier and sternly said, “Clearly this lady does not understand what you’re asking, and there is no need for you to speak to her that way.” The cashier, still confident and cocky was beginning to experience a touch of embarrassment. My friend said, “I understand that it’s busy but no one deserves to be treated like this.” The pregnant lady in broken English turned to my friend with gratitude, “I repay you, I repay you. May God bless you.” My friend replied, “God bless you. Happy New Year” and headed back to her grocery cart.
Out of breath and still shaking, my friend met the cashier again after two customers. Feeling awkward but still wanting to address the situation, my friend calmly said to the young cashier, “I understand that work over the holidays can be overwhelming and it’s busy today, but we need to be more kind and patient with others.” The cashier, now able to see beyond her own stress, thanked my friend for the kind act of paying for the pregnant lady’s groceries. “Happy New Year!” and off my friend went back home to put away her groceries and cover herself in blankets. She was in a kindness ‘crash.’
As my friend told me this story with a blanket covering her lap, she in no way came across as the bold ‘do-gooder’ type, destroying injustice with kindness. She described the story as one of the scariest things she’s ever had to do, and it took every ounce of courage inside to act on her instincts. With no blanket covering my lap (just my little dog Winston by my side), I sat astounded by her courage to let the stirring in her gut turn into action. I have felt the nudge to act out of the ordinary but lacked the courage to go ahead with it. Standing up for justice is putting yourself into unpredictable situations with the possibility of rejection, social isolation, glares and snarls. Few people can do this….except my friend Sarah (my hero).