HOLDING THE LINE ON VALUES |
October 21, 2013
Perspective. Got stuck in the lone checkout line at Safeway behind a woman buying groceries with her EBT
card (food stamps). She had her teenaged son with her and a huge stack
of coupons. I’ve been having a frustrating week. I was wearing coat and
tie and probably had a grumpy look on my face when I arrived. The woman
working the register kept looking at me apologetically as time went on
and the line grew.
The shopper had a coupon for almost every item. She went through that stack of coupons four times slowly because she was missing one. I think she had coupons for apples, soup, pasta, rice, beans, and bread. She was missing a 60 cent coupon for her two cartons of almond milk. She had a list and had calculated to the penny what she could buy, had $70 on her EBT card and $20 or so on a check she had written but she was $1.20 short to finalize the purchase.
I was tempted to pass the woman two bucks but she was already starting to radiate with awkward embarrassment. Her son stood behind her and stared at the floor. Finally the shopper asked the register worker if there was any way she could look through the weekly flier and find the coupon she needed and the worker started paging through it for her.
My irritation dissipated the longer I stood there. Its been a long time since I agonized over $1.20 for food. I’ve never had to do it with a crowd behind me. I could see the time and care she had put into her shopping trip, calculating the cost, clipping coupons, buying cheap healthy food.
I relaxed. I smiled. The coupon was finally found and the sale made. The register worker kept thanking me for my patience. I suppose these days most folks expect a certain amount of eye-rolling and grimacing when a customer is inconvenienced for a few minutes. We’re very busy people.
By Monday, the shutdown will have cost me enough from a plane ticket change fee and a lost weekend of National Guard wages that it will sting. But I won’t miss a meal, or even skimp. I won’t miss a mortgage payment. I won’t fear for my phone or electricity being shut off. I have friends that may. I’m grateful for all that America has given me. I’m glad my wife has a good-paying job.
Not everyone is so lucky. We have young National Guard soldiers here in Washington State that rely on their drill pay for food and lodging and on military tuition assistance to pay for college. They won’t be getting either due to the shutdown. Each of them volunteered to serve in their nation’s military during time of war, uncertain of the cost.
This will likely, hopefully, be resolved before my young soldiers or friends in federal service even have time to apply for food stamps or unemployment. But not, perhaps, before a few missed payments, missed meals, and sleepless nights. It bothers me to see them treated this way.
The legislative branch of our government has its work cut out for it. I’d like to see them take up that task with the same zeal, teamwork and selfless sense of service to nation and community I see in the young soldiers and law-enforcement officers that work for me. I’d like that a great deal.
All I did. The best I did today, was to stand patiently in line behind someone less fortunate than myself and not act like a complete ass. The woman at the register seemed appreciative. Almost like she expected me to be annoyed. Is this what we’ve come to? Is this what people expect?
Patience. Compassion. Persistence. Teamwork. I expect these attributes of my most junior employees.
I expect them of myself.
I expect them of my government.