Wait For It

IMG_4280Last Thursday, I made what I hoped would be a quick trip to a local store to finish up my Christmas shopping.  I usually enjoy shopping for Christmas presents, but this particular expedition wasn’t going well.  I needed to buy a stocking for my grandson and was pleased to see that the store had a large selection of them.  I was less pleased to see that for some reason, they had placed several large pallets stacked high with cartons of soda pop directly in front of the stocking display.  While I could see the stockings I was interested in buying, I couldn’t actually reach them.

I looked around for someone to help, but the only other people around were harried shoppers trying to push their enormous carts through the aisles that were partially blocked by the pallets.  Undaunted, I grabbed a roll of wrapping paper and used it to reach over the pallets and snag some stockings.  I made my selection and was just considering what to do with the stockings I didn’t want when man came up and wheeled away one of the pallets.  Which was a good thing, because it saved me from having to decide whether to use my wrapping paper roll to try to replace the stockings on the shelf, or to simply toss them over the pallets and hope they landed in the right spot.

Next I needed a board game, so I went to the toy department.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the game on my list but I was pleased to see two staff persons chatting in the next aisle who should be able to help.  I approached them and waited patiently for them to finish talking so that I could ask about my game.  And waited.  And then waited some more.  Finally, I gave up and stomped off, but not before muttering, “No wonder so many people shop online!” just loud enough for them to hear.

I know that the trend toward online shopping has made it very difficult for real “brick and mortar stores” to survive.  And while I do enjoy the convenience of online shopping, I also feel there is a real need for actual stores that provide real jobs and give me a chance to physically examine (and sometimes try on) something before I buy it.  Besides, I really don’t want to live in a world where we all shop, learn, conduct our social life, etc. while sitting in front of a computer in our underwear.  Real stores allow us to get out into the real world and engage with one another in person, and there’s a certain value in that.

But I was beginning to have very dark thoughts about real stores that morning as I went back to the toy section to look one more time for the game.  I had just given up (and was thinking that I might never shop in that store again) when a staff person walked up and asked if she could help me.  Surprised, I told her what I was looking for, and she told me she thought they had a few of them in stock.  “Stay right here,” she instructed me, “and I’ll get it for you.”  Sure enough, she came back a few minutes later with the game, and asked if there was anything else she could help me with.  She couldn’t possibly have been nicer, and I have to say that our interaction changed my mood completely.  I think I was even humming along with the Christmas background music as I made my way to the check out line.

The whole incident reminded me how often I am too quick to judge a situation, especially in a negative way.  Sometimes first impressions aren’t everything.  Who hasn’t had a day that started out very badly but ended up with something really good happening?  Or met someone they didn’t like very much until they took the time to get to know them better?  Sometimes we just need to let things play out a little before we react.  And sometimes good things happen when we’re willing to just give it a little time.

A Happy Anniversary

It wasn’t until  sat down to write this week’s post that I realized this month is my blog’s four-year anniversary.  (I’m embarrassed to admit that I actually thought it was my blog’s fifth anniversary until I did the math one more time.  Some of us just weren’t cut out for working with numbers….)  Anyway, I’m happy to say that the blog I started with much hope and trepidation four years ago is still going strong and that the experience has turned out to be a very good one.

It’s impossible to do something for four years straight and not learn a few things along the way.  Prior to starting my blog, I had harbored a deep distrust of the internet, and couldn’t even buy something on line without panicking at the thought of actually putting my credit card number out there in cyberspace.  The thought of putting my writing on the internet for all the world to see (and comment on) was the biggest hurdle I had to overcome before I could summon up the nerve to publish my first post.  One of the first things my blog taught me is that the using the internet isn’t quite as dangerous as I had believed.

Yes, there are hackers galore, and there are also lots of folks out there who spend their days making nasty online comments to perfect strangers just because they can.  But there are far more good people who are willing to offer encouragement, advice and kindness to the people they meet online.  One of the best things about writing a blog post is getting comments on it that expand and improve on the point I was trying to make, and that happens a lot.  I feel very lucky to have readers who are both smart and generous with their knowledge.

I’ve also learned that we humans have much more in common than I ever realized.  My intended audience was middle-aged women, mostly because that’s who I was (yes, I know at sixty I’m stretching the definition of middle age a bit) and I figured those were the people who would relate to what I had to say.  But I have regular readers who are male, and regular readers who are either younger or older than I am.  It turns out, most of the issues I struggle with aren’t restricted to middle-aged woman at all.  They’re human issues that most of us can relate to just fine, no matter what our age, sex, belief system, or nationality happens to be.  The blogging community can represent diversity at its best.

Finally, I’ve learned how important it is not to let my fears, both the reasonable and the not-so-reasonable ones, stop me from doing the things I really want to do.  I love writing and I love writing this blog, yet if I hadn’t managed to overcome my fears of “putting myself out there” on the internet, I would not have spent the past four years writing this particular blog.  And that would have been a real shame, because I would missed out on all the gifts this blog has given me:  the chance to grow as a writer, to connect with terrific people from all over the world, and the hope that (with a little luck and a lot of work) I may make it to my actual five year blogging anniversary.

Only The Best

I was at a restaurant the other night when I noticed a young couple being seated at a nearby table.  As soon as they sat down, the man placed his laptop computer on the table in front of him and began typing.  The woman immediately pulled out her phone and gave it her full attention.  The looked up from their devices just long enough to place their orders, but I don’t think they said more than three words to each other before their food arrived.

DSC03670 2Once the food came, the man pushed his computer aside and began to eat, but the woman kept her phone out and used it to take some photos of her dinner.  And apparently the lighting over their table wasn’t very good, because she picked up her plate and carried it to an empty table, where she put it down and took another photo.  I guess that photo wasn’t satisfactory either, because she repeated the process at several other tables before she finally carried her food back to her own table and began to eat.

I’ll never know exactly why the woman was so concerned with getting a high-quality photo of her dinner, but I assume she intended to share it on social media.  We certainly live in a time where it’s common to share almost every detail of our lives and almost every thought that crosses our minds, and the internet makes it so very easy for us to do so.  But it seems to me that all too often, we have lost sight of the difference between the things we should share and the things that we should be keeping to ourselves.

Honestly, sharing all the mundane details of our lives only annoys other people.  (I know I could live happily without ever seeing a photo of someone else’s meal.)   But far worse is the kind of sharing that is downright hurtful. When someone we care for voices an opinion that we think is just plain silly, we don’t need to actually tell them that.  I’ve never yet met a pregnant woman who appreciated being told about someone’s incredibly long and painful labor.  And people who have made difficult decisions don’t benefit from having someone second-guess their choice afterwards.  A good rule of thumb is that if sharing our thoughts will cause unnecessary stress or hurt feelings, then those thoughts shouldn’t be shared at all.

Sharing is a good thing, as long as we do it wisely.  We can do an incredible amount of good when we share our resources with those who are in desperate need, and sharing words of encouragement and hope can make a huge difference in the life of someone who is struggling.  The trick is to make sure that what we are sharing is something that is actually wanted and/or needed by the person we intended to share with.

I still think about that couple at the restaurant.  Maybe they really didn’t have anything they wanted to say to each other.  But I believe that their dinner would have been so much better if, rather than focusing on taking a good photo of their food to share online, they’d chosen to give their time and attention to each other instead.  That, in my opinion, would have been something actually worth sharing.  Because good things happen when we choose to share only the very best we have to offer…..