I haven’t known Caryl and Brian long, but there has been a nice chemistry between us. I think they already knew me from coming through my line, but the first time I really registered (ha-ha) who they were we got to talking about resale shops. I don’t know what was the connection that opened this up, but I told them that I was going to take my buddy Monty shopping for stuff he needed for his new apartment. They immediately and enthusiastically recommended a resale shop that benefited the local CarePartners Hospice. They said it had great merchandise at good prices, and for a wonderful cause – and recommended that I go on Thursday, the day that new merchandise usually hit the floor. That was perfect, because the next day was Thursday and I was off – and was already intending for me and Monty to go shopping.
The positive connection with Caryl and Brian continued the next day when Monty totally hit it at the resale shop, finding almost everything he needed – at good prices. He especially loved the white sofa he got. I actually preferred the larger faux-leather grey one he had considered, but decided against. (Once he got the white one in his apartment it was clear that the grey one would have been too big.) I was especially enthused by the tan dresser he got – a beautiful piece of furniture, not cheap but very reasonable.
That positive connection was boosted even more when, as Monty was paying for his treasures, Caryl and Brian came through the door. They weren’t looking for anything in particular, just liked this place and enjoyed shopping together (I think they just enjoy being together period). It was an awful lot of fun seeing them – and they seemed very gratified that their tip had worked out so well for us.
This fun connection continued a few days later when they again came through my line (I think they’re gonna use my line now even if it’s longer than some others), when we found out that we had all lived in Syracuse at the same time (I think that’s where they met) and had all worked for the federal government, though me in a different branch and in Chicago (I’m pretty sure that’s how they met).
Yesterday Caryl (no Brian – I think it’s the first time I’ve seen her without him) came through my line. I like to compliment people on an item of clothing they are wearing, but only if it’s genuine – if I really like it. But it was easy to get enthusiastic about the really interesting red hand-knitted hat she was wearing. “Wow, I am so much looking for a cool hat like that – I am completely sick of the boring, generic old ski hat that I’ve worn for too many years. Where did you get it?” “I made it.” “Wow, you can make stuff like that!? How much of it do you do?” “Oh, fairly much.” (My reading was that she was a little shy over how much of a fuss I was making, but that she also knew I was sincere and was kind of liking it. I do like to make up stories about what’s going on inside the other person’s head – a hazard, I guess, of working as a psychologist for 20 years.) “Do you ever sell them?” “Mostly no – I just make them as gifts for friends.” “Wow, well it’s amazing.”
We chit-chatted through the rest of her relatively long transaction. (I love it when somebody I like has a lot of groceries, so we can really visit.) When all her groceries were bundled up, her credit card had gone through and Caryl was about to leave, I couldn’t stop myself from saying, “I want to buy one of your hats.” She seemed to ground herself intentionally and did something that I think she had been working up to: she took off the hat and handed it to me. “Here, I want you to have it.”
I was so completely blown away that I don’t really know what I said next. I think I stammered something like, “You can’t do that – it’s your hat.” I’m pretty sure I said, “I wasn’t fishing for that.” “I know – I think it will look great on you.” And a look of pure happiness washed over her face, which told me that what was going on was absolutely right and that I could relax into the moment and receive. And then I got really happy. I pulled the hat on my head and she immediately said, “It really does look great on you.” And I believed her. Then she pulled out of her pocket two matching fingerless gloves – with the same intricate ribbed pattern as the hat. Fingerless gloves are perfect for cashiering, where our hands do get cold from the front doors continually opening, but we need to have our fingers free for running the cash register – and I didn’t have any.
This radiant exchange stayed with me all day – and I was genuinely thrilled with my gifts. As I told and retold the story over the course of the day, one thing moved more and more into center stage: for as happy as it made me to receive this gift – and the spontaneous generosity of it did definitely blow me away – it really seemed that giving the gift had made Caryl even happier. And I felt that I was understanding giving, in my gut not my head, a little deeper than ever before.