With my new haircut thrusting my eyes into prominence, I have been told more than once in the past week that I have beautiful eyes. It seems that with no distractions, people are seeing that one feature of min far more clearly...making me ever more aware of how I am looking AT others. What are my eyes conveying about what is in my heart and mind? What are they saying about the kind of person I am, about the measure of compassion and respect and care I have for each one I encounter?
It was as I reflected on this that I recalled an experience I had years ago in a supermarket in South Florida, one I wrote about in my Made for Living Column. Going in search of it, I found myself smiing as I
re-read it and recalled the incident with a great deal of pleasure as, even all these years later, I remember what an impact it made on my day, on my week. And so, dear friends, I share it with you today in the hope that it will be a reminder of the effect our words and actions make upon others...even the seemingly insignificant ones. For I am certain that this incident held little importance for the man in the Winn Dixie, but it has remained in my memory for more than thirty years.
May your day be lovely and filled with meaningful encounters.
We Pass This Way but Once
Did you know that I have smiling eyes? That wonderful detail of my appearance, unnoticed by me, was brought to my attention a few weeks ago in the express line at the local Winn Dixie. The day had been long and filled with numerous errands; several more remained to be completed; I was hot and tired and not terribly pleased about having to make yet another stop. But stop I did and having deftly and quickly procured the items on my list, I took my place in the express line.
As is so frequently the case when I’m in a hurry, the line moved at a snail’s pace; prices had to be checked, a check okayed, and on and on. My load was growing heavier and heavier and the cold gallon container of milk was numbing my arm and my side, when I abruptly reached the counter and gratefully deposited my ten items or less As I breathed a sigh of relief- a quite audible one, I’m sure- I noticed a gentleman behind me whose arms were as full as mine had been a moment before. Something in his face, something in his demeanor, prompted me to hastily push my purchases forward to make room for his.
As he did not immediately notice my action, I said to him, “There’s plenty of room here for your things, too, “ and I smiled.“Why, thank you, young lady.” (I loved that ‘young lady) “Are you sure I won’t be crowding you?”
“Oh, no, “ I assured him, “there’s plenty of space. Might as well wait comfortably.”
As he placed his things on the counter, he commented about the irony of spending so much time in the express line. I expressed my agreement and then he looked at me pointedly and said, “Do you know how nice it is to talk with someone who is cheerful and smiling- and do you know how seldom that happens these days? You not only have a wonderful smile, but you have smiling eyes and I don’t see those very often.”
“Why, thank you.” My words were one of genuine gratitude because, though this kind gentleman felt that I had given something to him, only I knew how much he had given me. The ill temper which I had brought with me into the store was shed like a useless second skin and I walked to my car with a smile on my face, ready and willing and eager to share my “smiling eyes” with others I would encounter as I completed my round of errands. And so, thanks to the comment of one sharing, caring person, I smiled at the harried clerk at the dry cleaners; waited patiently at the stop sign while several people decided which way they would go- or whether they would go; stood in line at the bank praying for people who I knew had a special need and wished the obviously tired teller a lovely, restful weekend.
As I was driving home, I thought again of my gracious supermarket benefactor and the effect his beautiful compliment had on me, turning my sour and cranky disposition into one of care and concern for others around me. If he could see the beauty in me that day, I could surely look around me for the beauty in others I met.
The paths of thought led to the avenue of memory where I met some words of inspiration I had read and heard many times, a quotation whose authorship had been variously attributed to Victor Hugo, George Eliot, a Quaker names Stephen Grellet, and to many others. No one actually know when it was said or why or under what circumstancesor how it was passed along. But the impelling words hold a fascination for me as they have for countless others.
“I shall pass through this world but once. Any good therefore that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to any human being, let me do it now. Let me not defer nor neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.” A brief contact in a line in a supermarket: a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience of person-to-person, but for me an experience of kindness and caring and connectedness that I shall never forget. My hope is that I can carry the words and the memory of that special kindness ever with me, “doing also to others” for “…I shall not pass this way again.”