‘Don’t let the world change who you are.’
I had one of those’ full circle’ experiences recently- it was almost two years in the making but it connected the dots on a life experience I had not been able to make sense of.
Back Story: A few years ago I was in a novelty store buying a trinket for our youngest son for Christmas. It was overpriced and I knew it would be under-used, but I purchased it anyway. When I went to check out, there was no one behind me, and I noticed that the cashier was teary eyed. I asked her if she was ok, and this led to quite a conversation between us. She was facing her first Christmas after the loss of a loved one and she was really struggling. I listened intently to her story and offered a few words of comfort. After I left the store, I went out to the parking lot and dug through the trunk of my car until I found a copy of one of my books about grief. I had taken note of her name-tag and I quickly inscribed the inside of the book to her. I went back into the store and handed it to her and wished her a Merry Christmas. Now before you give me angel wings for my good deed, know that I have oodles of books in my garage- and giving one away does not make me a saint. I have always made it a habit to give books away when the Universe shows me a place they are needed- and this just seemed like one of those opportunities. I did not give the event any more thought- but a few days later, I went to wrap the item I had purchased for our son and opened up the box to see that it was in pieces.
I made a return trip to that same store assuming that I would be able to replace the broken item with a new one. The same cashier was working. I approached her with a smile and explained that I was back because the item that I purchased was broken. She smirked as she pointed to the ‘no returns’ sign and told me flatly that she knew there would be some kind of ‘hook’ to the free book I had given her. I was stunned- totally speechless. I could see from the look on her face that she truly believed that the book I had given her was some kind of strange manipulation. I swallowed my emotion and paid for a brand new item- and she seemed to thoroughly enjoy taking my money for a second time- as if she had ‘bested’ me in some sick game. I never said anything negative to her but I was incredulous as I walked out of the store vowing I would never return.
It was an event that really bothered me and for days afterward I wrestled with all sorts of conflicting emotions inside myself. I didn’t really care that I had paid for the replacement item, that part of it was beside the fact. The event rattled me because I could not find my ‘place’ in it. Whenever something difficult or unsavory happens in my life, I know that somehow I always have a ‘place’ in it. With this occurrence, I was having a hard time figuring out what exactly the Universe was trying to show me. I tried to look at all the angles- was I being manipulative when I gave her that book? Did I expect special treatment because I had done something nice? I spent many hours going over the scenario in my head, and I never really got any clarity.
Fast-forward to this week. In need of a specific item, I returned to that same store- yes, the one I vowed to never go into again. Sure enough, standing next to the only cash register in the store, was the same cashier that I had the interaction with two years ago. My first instinct was to walk out- but the item I needed was only available at this particular store. Figuring nothing happens by accident, I grabbed the item I wanted and got in line. My heart raced a little bit as I stepped up to face her. She was happy and friendly as heck- and she clearly did not recognize me from Adam. She rang me up, thanked me for the business and was on to her next customer without missing a beat.
I walked out of the store trying to make sense of it- grappling with the fact that even though she had made quite an impression on my world, I had not made any on hers. Then I remembered an interaction I had had a few hours before stepping back into that store, and I began to understand. A few hours before my repeat encounter with this cashier, I got a text message from a new friend that I spent some time with a few weeks ago. She was letting me know that there had been an unexpected loss in her family and that a play date we had planned for our kids would have to be postponed. As I texted her back to offer my condolences I also promised her that I would bring a book along to our play date when it occurred. She responded warmly and we agreed to get together soon. So just a few hours before this seemingly random repeat encounter, I had essentially made the same offering to this new friend, as I had to this cashier two years ago.
Although I cannot pretend to know what lesson our interaction may have held for that cashier- the lesson for me was clear- it was an affirmation that despite what happened with her two years ago, even though it had stung me and made me question, ‘why?’ it had not changed who I am and how I choose to use my gifts in the world….
It felt good to know this- I am not always the most generous person- I am always out of time, never have any cash, and God help me if I EVER have a Kleenex in my purse to give someone when they need it… So it is safe to say, because I am often lacking in many of the things I need- I am not always forthcoming to others- but the one thing I always have in abundance, are my words… and whether they are in a published book, a letter, or some other form, they have always been a gift I can share freely with those who need them… so my words are something I have always tried to use generously for the good. (In my 16 years as a published author, I have probably given away two books for every one book I have sold, and although it may not be the best business practice (hence the never having any cash problem) it does keep my soul nourished.)
So this full circle experience allowed for a deepening of my belief that if you have something to give, you should always give it freely- not in order to obtain a certain outcome, but simply because giving when you can, is always the right thing to do. And it was also a great reminder that no matter what bait the world may dangle in front of you- stay true to your best self –
and never let the world change who you are!