Sunday, August 21, 2011


Today, on my last few dollars, I went to the grocery store to pick up a few essentials intended to last until the next paycheck. You know, milk, eggs, butter, and general items that can be turned into more than the dime pays for.

Standing in line usually takes longer than actually selecting these items and putting them in a cart. While I had less than 20 items, I chose a line that seemed to be moving faster than the 20-items-or-less line. But, I stood in line patiently, waiting my turn, thinking about what else I wanted to get done today. 

I noticed those in the line next to mine. Please forgive me, I am a writer and I am prone to people watching. There was a lady putting her things on the counter, she was elderly and alone. While she seemed capable of the shopping trip, there seemed to be something about her that stood out as lonely. I found myself wishing someone was there to help her, despite the fact that she didn't have the sad traits that accompany the truly aged. You know, the shaky hands, the extreme slow motion movements...

While I was noticing this woman, another gentleman, I'd say he was probably early sixties stuck his head around the corner... he was sizing up how many items this elderly lady had.

"Well, that's definitely more than 20 items," he said and jumped back over to his line to commiserate, I'm sure, about how people just don't follow the rules. His wife (I assume) was nodding fervently, and the gentleman and his wife struck up a conversation about the 20-item-or-less lanes.

And I heard all this from across two check out lanes.

At this point, I was flabbergasted. I didn't know what to say. I know what I wanted to say, but the words could simply not come out. I was enraged. I paid for my items, and as I was walking away, I could hear the elderly lady apologizing about not realizing that it was a 20-items-or-less line. She was mortified. And it was obvious.

So, I did the only thing I could think of. I rushed outside, put my bags in my car, and ran back inside the store. I waited for the elderly lady to finish paying and as she walked away, I asked her if I could help her get her bags into her car.

She pointed out that she had no idea it was a 20-items-or-less line, to which I assured her that everyone had made that mistake a time or two in their lives. I also told her that it didn't make sense to me why he would go out of his way to be hateful.

She was surprised that I was willing to push her cart out to her car and then load all her groceries in her trunk.

I didn't go into details with her, I just told her that there needed to be a little more good in the world and that I was happy to help.

Truth is... I was very happy to help. I was happy that I was given the opportunity to right someone else's wrong.

Here's where I rant:
I don't care if she saw the sign indicating 20 or less items. She was tackling a chore alone at an age where she probably needed help. I'm not saying she was incapable, I'm saying she could have used help. And instead of getting help, she got harassed. And why? WHY?

What was so shocking to me, was that the gentleman was probably no more than 10-15 years younger than the elderly lady. Wasn't that supposed to be the age of respectfulness? Wasn't my generation the generation of tactless, no respect youth?

And here I was righting the wrong of someone who could have passed for my grandfather. Did bullies really come from our generation or are we just paying more attention to them now that we have social media?

I wish I could issue a challenge to the world. I wish I could ask everyone to look around and no matter how much money you have in your pocket to just do something nice for someone else.... in whatever way possible. You know, pay it forward. But, I know my pleas will fall on deaf ears. And if they are not falling on deaf ears, then they are falling on people who already hold the same moral values as me.

But maybe not. Who knows. I'll hope for the best.

Gandhi says, "Be the change you want to see in the world."
Maybe this is what he means.


  1. Not only does that shock me but it aggravates me as well. We rant about kids not being respectful but is it any wonder when adults are the same way?

  2. Very well written post. I find it irritating the people that do this to one another. Whatever happened to good will and all that. Sigh. Anyways kudos to you for helping the woman. Shows how genuine and amazing human being you are. Just wait until that man and his wife are that age. They'll wish they'd done what you did instead of griping about a stupid 20 items or less.

  3. Thank you for taking the time to help her. I swear I hope that jerk comes across this article one day and see how horrid he was. I'd say I hope he winds up in her shoes one day but I really can't condone someone else being crappy just so he gets a dose of his medicine.


  4. Thank you, Ashley. You are doing something to help. Speaking out will help people see.

    It's taken me a while but I have learned that in giving I receive so much more to make my life better.

    Kind words and actions have a reward that will never be taken from the giver or receiver.

    Beautiful post!

  5. I see many in our generation that have more class than those above us. We were raised, by our parents, and by our schools especially, to not look away at diversity, to help those who need help. We had "Be good citizen" programs! :)

    The other day I was at a Supercuts getting my hair cut, and right before it was my turn, an elderly gentleman on a cane and his adult daughter came in. The man needed a haircut. I gladly and quickly urged the man to go ahead of me. The stylist was surprised, the man was surprised, and so was his daughter. It doesn't pain me to sit and wait, but judging by the way the man walked, I bet it would at least be uncomfortable for him. Found out from his daughter man just lost his wife in April and now she was there to help him move out of the home they shared together to a smaller home near her sister so he could have help.

    We can make things better, we can help those older and younger than us and prove many wrong about the few bad apples in our generation. :) Great post!

  6. I hate to be one of those people who comments on a blog with a blog post of their own, but I wrote a supermarket checkout blog around the same time as this - it's fictionalised, but tackles that same selfish and judgemental nonsense as the couple you describe here:

    Good on you for making a stand. There should be separate aisles marked for good people. :-)

  7. There seems to be a subset of elderly people (not all, mind you, just some) who have the attitude that old age entitles them to do and say whatever they please. Sad to say, my departed grandmother, whom I loved dearly, was one of them. So I've had a bird's eye view of this kind of person as I grew up. I didn't even know my grandfather had a personality until after my grandmother died, because her response whenever he spoke was 'Shut up, Harry!'. She would have made these kind of embarrassing comments, mortifying my mother, I am sure. My mother and her sisters joked about how my grandmother would take her cane to whack people out of her way... but I wonder, was it really a joke?

    I had not come across that Gandhi saying before, but it reminds me of the chorus to a Garth Brooks song (yes, I am a country music girl, freely admitted). This is something I happen to believe firmly, because I've been told this a few times, and this is now my standard response. It goes like this:

    'And I hear them saying you'll never change things, and no matter what you do it's still the same thing.
    But it's not the world that I am changing,
    I do this so this world will know that it will not change me.'

  8. Hey Les, that blog was spot on! On rare occasion I believe that referencing your own blog is a good thing. You really nailed it in that entry! Thanks for sharing!

    Ciara~ I think in country music territory. More people like it here than not, and I also am a fan. Garth Brooks = country legend.