An open letter to the man behind me at the food store…
Dear Man behind me in line at the food store,
I see you behind me put your few items on the belt- hurried as if you were already in a rush before even the notion of having to wait. I know I have huge order of food, as usual, and perhaps that’s what had annoyed you in the first place. I realize you are only buying 4 or 5 items, and had you arrived in line before my order was being rung up I probably would have let you go in front of me. Here I am at the store with no kids and certainly not in any rush; but my order has already begun to be pushed through. My attention is now brought to my right, towards the young man who is beginning to bag my order. He shuffles though my stack of reusable bags and begins to examine my growing stack of fruits, vegetables, boxes of Goldfish, jars of salsa and gallons of milk as the cashier rings up more and more items. I notice that Matthew, the gentleman bagging my items, is special needs. This young man is working hard at processing what items to put in which bags. He begins to place like items in a bag, and I have to smile at how hard he is working, knowing he is absolutely trying his best, not only at learning a new job, but also digging deep into his mind, thinking of what items should go together; a task that seemed challenging to him.
As he is doing his work, our cashier; a very sweet woman whom I have seen many a time on my frequent trips to the store, stops Matthew to remind him to put cold items with cold items and soft items with soft items. I smile at her and insist there’s no worrying about it, since I live moments away from home. We exchange a smile and Matthew continues his job- working and concentrating all of his focus on the task at hand.
I pan to my left towards the man who is behind me, now catching my attention. The man in line with such few items is now visibly aggravated at the few extra moments Matthew was taking to bag my groceries. He says not a word, but his actions and body language show his annoyance, growing anger and displeasure of his current place in line.
I am not sure why you are in such a rush. I have no idea what your life is like, what you are shopping for, or why you need to leave so quickly. Did you not see that Matthew needed some extra time completing his work? You must have. I can’t image that you didn’t.
I feel sorry for you. Sorry that you are so easily annoyed, sorry that you cannot dig down into your heart and realize that not all humans work at the same speed. Some need more time, some need more guidance.
I pan to my right again, Matthew now almost finished with his work. I smile and feel a sense of pride for him, knowing he worked so hard.
I do not know Matthew’s mother and I cannot begin to relate what she must have felt when she brought her brand new baby boy home from the hospital and knew he would have a hard road in front of him; knowing he would always have to work two maybe three times as hard as his peers to do the same job. As a mother though, I do know the feeling of wanting your child to succeed, no matter what. I knew somewhere she was immensely proud of her son, working a job, making a living- no matter what it was. I felt proud for him. I felt proud for her.
As I thank Matthew for my bags, I glance back at the man behind me, now beginning his order. Yes, you did have to wait a few more minutes than normal, I get that. I get that life is busy. There’s always something to do, someplace to be. Perhaps you are not a father and you could not relate to Matthew. I don’t know your story. All’s I can wish is that you would open your heart a bit and see the world around you in a more open way. If we all just slow down a bit and relish in each others joys and successes, the world would be a much happier place.
Thank you Matthew for your hard work- it did not go un-noticed.