Friday, November 19, 2010

Character revealed

Chance encounters with two young women this week left a huge, and positive, impression on me. The latest encounter was at my doctor’s office this morning. A young woman was the sticker in my bloodwork process. In the course of our chatting about Thanksgiving and families, she mentioned that she was graduating from the University of Southern Mississippi – on her birthday – with a degree in Public Health.

I had already learned that she was a mom and the holiday go-to person among her numerous siblings and their families. We had just met, but I was so proud of this strong woman who was working full time, taking care of her own family, keeping ties tight with her extended family, and earning a degree.

The other encounter was during this week’s regular pilgrimage to Hattiesburg to visit my mother. On shopping excursions, Mother at 91 years old is often invisible to cashiers, although she is paying her own way. I am so thankful on those occasions when personnel at the various stores acknowledge her existence, are respectful and – that important element for Southern women of my mother’s and my generations – friendly. On a trip to Wal-Mart this week, we had successfully gathered up all items on Mother’s list and headed to the check out.

Mother was not invisible to the young woman at the register. Neither was she talked down to but was treated routinely as any other functioning, intelligent adult. The young woman was courteous and efficient, pleasant without being chatty. She also had on an attractive top that was black with gold stars and a gold belt.

“I love your top. It looks so Christmasy!” I blurted. Alas, I AM chatty and I love Christmas and it has been on my mind since before Halloween. Not everyone shares my enthusiasm, however, and I instantly started mentally scrambling around to do damage control. Not to worry.

“Thank you,” she said with a smile. “I love Christmas!”

“We have been playing Christmas music since October,” I confessed.

“I already have my tree up,” she admitted.

We smiled. A satisfactory Wal-Mart transaction completed. And she and Mother completed the monetary transaction just fine, too.


  1. What a really nice holiday story. Do most people actually treat your mom like she's invisible? Gosh, in China, they really respect and admire their elders and ancestors. Too bad that sometimes it's just the opposite here. I am chatty as well. I like getting to know the clerks at stores and hearing about their lives.

  2. I love this story, both of them and since i volunteer with the elderly i knew imediately what you meant by talking down to them. i try so hard to not say things like cutie and sweetie and like they are children.the odd thing is in these days of more non friendly cashiers than the ones like you described, i had an encounter yesteray at Walmart with a cashier. he was a young African American, tall and thin and very handsome. I came home and told my husband, i met THE nicest cashier I have found in a long time. he chatted and scanned like crazy while doing it, smiled and was just plain SWEET. i am sure at my age of 66 he thougth i was very old, he must have been college age. so glad to hear there are 2 wonderful cashiers out there.

  3. This is a real feel good story. You are fortunate to have your Mother still around and able to take care of herself. Bravo to the 2 fine women you praised.

  4. Kudos to the cashiers you encountered that produced this lovely post! My best regards to your mother who's still out there and not hiding at home in her rocking chair. I've always thought southern women (that includes me) were strong!