It was November, 2006, and I was rushing through the supermarket. I had already been to the store that weekend, but in my haste to get all my ingredients together, I mistakenly left two crucial things off the list. Ugh! So with my condensed milk and bag of sugar in hand, I quickly made my way through the aisles and stepped up to the Express Lane in hopes of beating the holiday crowd home.
And that’s when it happened
As I approached the register, I was pleased to see only one customer ahead of me. He was an older gentleman who looked to be in his late 70’s. He was making polite conversation with the young check-out girl and awaiting the purchase total for his groceries. When the number lit up on the cash register screen, he slowly began to lean over and rifle through his single bag and started taking items out. He apologized to the young employee that he didn’t have enough money to cover his purchases.
As I stood there, I listened and watched him trying to decide between the “canned cranberry sauce that my Jane loves so much” and the whipped topping “I don’t really need.” It actually took me a few seconds to realize that his items couldn’t have added up to more than $10.00 and that I could easily cover his bill. The young girl at the register started up a new conversation about what he was going to make for Thanksgiving, and I was quite annoyed that she seemed to completely ignore the money I extended in an attempt to pay his bill! She held his gaze and was friendly, but her apparent CLUELESSNESS began to anger me as I considered how insensitive it was to talk about this meal that he so obviously wasn’t going to be able to prepare. “What is wrong with the youth of America?” I thought. Then it happened.
Out of nowhere, a supervisor showed up at the register. She greeted the man, complimented him on his dapper appearance, made concise chatter, and after a turn of a key and a punch of a button, picked up his groceries and walked with him out the door. “What just happened here?” I thought as I put my sugar and can of condensed milk on the checkout counter.
“Oh, that was my manager,” replied the attendant. Apparently, my thought actually came out in words. Feeling a little embarrassed, I continued. “Oh, um, did that man not have enough money? I was going to pay for him. Did he get all his groceries?” With a sincere smile, the check-out girl explained that her manager didn’t want anyone going without on Thanksgiving, so they had a plan for situations like the one I had just witnessed.
I was floored. They had an intentional plan that they executed with dignity and respect. Wow. Why didn’t they tell people about this? Didn’t they consider the marketing potential? Then I realized that “going public” would erase the dignity that this manager was trying to give her customer. I almost missed the point. Maybe I was the CLUELESS one.
This experience has stuck with me for years, and it continues to challenge me. Do I have a plan? The fact is, being intentional is work, it makes you vulnerable, and acting on it may not always deliver the expected response. Besides, opportunities that present themselves may not be pretty – or easy – or even very obvious. I know I am blessed with so much, and it would be inappropriate not to pass those blessings along, but quite honestly, I’m still struggling with my “plan.”
I’d love to know what your experience has been. Maybe we can help each other figure it out.