Tuesday, January 10

a simple comment

In my effort to be more social, I will always remember how I felt this day as the recipient of a simple comment.

Before I share what happened, I must make a confession first: I am guilty of subconsciously treating the cashier in a store as a machine. I rarely give eye contact, nor do I provide small talk. First, I feel uncomfortable having a total stranger serve me. The fact that this person is only a couple of feet away and is touching everything I'm purchasing is unnerving. Next, I'm not prepared (physically or mentally) to strike up a conversation. I may or may not be wearing make-up, and I'm most definitely not dressed for a social outing. I'm usually just ready to be done with the never-ending chore of buying groceries or replacing some sort of childwear that has either grown too small or gained too many holes.

And really. I mean who wants to talk, really talk, when there are several carts lined up behind me — I can feel their owners' eyes probing me and wishing they, too were done with their shopping, as a screaming child tries to fill the cart with every single package of gum on display.

These are some of the reasons why I'm in love with the self-checkout lanes. I can do my own thing, without even having to wonder if there's going to be an awkward moment when the checkout worker makes small talk and I don't know how to respond — or worse, he/she makes a small joke that I don't get. And don't get me started on drive-through restaurants and ATM machines. If my bank's ATM is broken, I will literally drive several miles to another ATM, to avoid looking like an idiot when I don't know how to fill out a transaction in front of a teller.

It's really quite sad, I know.

Now back to that simple comment I received and how it will forever change the way I do business.

As I was paying for my purchases (no self-checkout at this store), I could see the cashier out of the corner of my eye. She did a little double-take and then said (quite out of the blue), "I really love your hair." Such a simple comment, yet it caught me off guard and I almost burst into tears. For the life of me, I don't know why she liked my hair. It's nothing special, it's shorter than I'd like, and I didn't even take more than 5 minutes to crinkle in a little hair spray texture and pop in a bobby pin. Now I could have said a mere, "Thank you," but I felt compelled to share why her comment meant so much to me. This gal had no idea that I would begin the process of losing my hair again when I start chemo tomorrow. How timely!

Her simple comment led me to share just a tidbit of my story, which in turn led her to share about her mother's own journey. Her mother passed away recently of breast cancer that was in her bones. Wow.

All in all, our chat lasted maybe one and half minutes. Fortunately there was no one behind me in line, so there was no need to feel guilty!

What I've learned from this encounter, is that there is really very little risk in paying a stranger a compliment. This simple act (when done genuinely) can brighten a person's day. It sure made my day. I read somewhere that it takes a great many compliments to overcome the effects of one single criticism. I'd venture to guess that many people are hard on themselves, so let's just assume people as a whole are hearing or feeling several criticisms throughout the day, which will no doubt affect their self-esteem.

Shouldn't we all be more free with our compliments?!

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