“So what are you working on?” he asked. I looked up from studying my list, my brow furrowed, thinking about what I might have forgotten, where I was going next, and the five hundred other tasks I hoped to accomplish today.
“Excuse me?” I mumbled, my train of thought suddenly interrupted. A young, male cashier – with a remarkable twinkle in his eyes I couldn’t help but notice – repeated his question as he stuffed my broccoli into the bag. “You want to know what I’m working on?” He flicked his hair out of his eyes. His smile was warm, dazzling and surprisingly disarming. “Yes, I really do,” he replied, nodding his head.
He slowly and methodically continued to bag the rest of my groceries, his gaze steady. I looked at him. Hard. He was serious. A few seconds passed as I looked around, feeling almost giddy. Then I carefully leaned in. “Well, actually… I’m learning to play the ukulele!”
“Whoa. That’s very cool,” he responded. “I play the ukulele, along with the guitar and banjo, though I gotta tell you; the uke is my favorite. It’s a total kick in the ass.” “Really! You play the ukulele?” I asked. “Wow, imagine that.” By now I was shamelessly beaming at my new best friend. “I’m having a hoot. Watching YouTube tutorials, getting books from the library. Singing at the top of my lungs. I feel like a little kid again.”
Our animated conversation continued. He gave me recommendations, the names of some books. My grocery bags filled up, and as I reached into my wallet to pay, I paused. “So, tell me something. Usually cashiers chit chat, like, ‘How’s your day going, or… Enjoying this fall weather?’ No one, ever, has asked me what I was working on. What’s that about?”
“I see people in only five-minute snippets, all day long,” he replied. “I asked that question because I genuinely wanted to know something about you. It’s too easy to disconnect doing this job. I don’t want to do that. I care about people. When you come back, let me know how it’s going.” He gave me my change and bid me goodbye as he moved on to the next customer. “Later. Have a good one,” he said, giving me a salute.
I left the store smiling – my mind emptied out, open, quiet, present. The sun was bright after days of rain. I helped an elderly woman with her shopping cart. Gratitude filled my heart. The irony here did not escape me. I had a small group of women coming to my house that evening for a mindfulness meditation group, and this cashier with his innate wisdom, gently poked at my mindless, chattering mind, reminding me… Moment to moment – just show up for what is happening now. Now is the only thing that is true.
There are teachers everywhere. Even behind checkout stands. We just need to pay attention. Mr. handsome, young, twinkle-eyed guy, I saw you. I heard you. I thank you. I won’t forget you.