For a people watcher, Wal-Mart certainly provides an entertaining venue to participate in the sport. Last night, I ran into my friendly neighborhood supercenter to find my buddy his coveted propel water and in the less than 10 minutes, I was in the store, made an interesting observation.
I was in deep concentration, searching through the drink aisles when the last lines of a conversation caught my attention. Flirtatious laughter filtered through my subconscious and I turned to see two 20-something women jesting with a 30-something man, “Oh yeah, don’t worry about it. We get that all the time.”
Momentarily, I wondered what it was they get “all the time” as they parted ways with the dude. The dirty work jacket and beanie-clad man turned back to the beer cooler and the rather frumpily dressed, wild-haired women continued around the corner. Not finding what I was in pursuit of, I followed them and overheard one say rather loudly, “Oh. M’gosh. What an idiot. Can you beLIEVE him?! Like he even stands a chance.” Raucous laughter followed this exclamation and the two disappeared out of ear shot.
Horrified that the man could hear this pointed jab, I glanced back and caught his eye. Sure enough, there was a second of disappointment before he recovered into an image of macho “manliness.”
For a moment, I believe something profound struck me.
No doubt this guy spouted off some cheesy pick up line to those two gals. Maybe not. Maybe he just dished out some back handed compliment, only to be misunderstood.
What caught my attention was this fact: aren’t we all on a life-long search to find meaning, purpose and acceptance? I think deep down we all desire to be accepted and understood. Dare I sound sappy, we all search for love and connection with those we cross paths with in our daily walk through life. And whether we hide this need behind macho “I’m the man,” flirty empty-headedness, sullen depression or quiet shyness, it drives our every interaction with people we meet.
It made me stop and wonder if along the path I walk, how many people do I come into contact with that are just reaching out for some tiny hint of humanity to accept them? The text messages from someone I “don’t have time” to talk to that get ignored. The casual glance at the car next to me in traffic that could end in a smile. The phone call from a frustrated customer that would only take a couple minutes to resolve. Scheduling a coffee break with the friend who just needs to talk through some things. Taking an extra few minutes to pick up something for a friend who can’t leave the house. Baking cookies for my apartment neighbors just to say “hi and you are noticed.”
Granted, none of those people I saw in Wal-Mart are the kind of people I personally would be interested in associating with. They all three gave off a vibe of going nowhere with their lives and pure emptiness. But had that man talked to me, how would I have reacted? Would it have killed me to smile and laugh politely and wish him a great evening or would I have turned my nose up and sneered like those girls did? Maybe that’s all he needed. Some confirmation at the end of a rough work day that someone else in the world, for one second, shared a moment of happiness with him.
Isn’t that what life is all about anyway? Relationships? Even those 10 second meetings in a grocery store aisle at 10 o’clock at night mean something much more than the stress of my job or the importance of my reading list or website or hobbies.
At least I think so.
Life ought to be so much fuller of smiles and laughter. Even if it’s just the stranger in Wal-Mart.