I have spent a lot of time in my life shopping in standard, big-chain grocery stores. Now, with my health food proclivities and – let’s tell it straight – my 20% discount, I do most of my shopping in my store. One of my bad memories of those big stores is the terrible parenting you got to see: the yelling, the threats, the slaps, the yanked arms. We see actually very little of this in our grocery store. Mostly the children are very well-behaved – and when they do act up the parents overall do a very good job of managing them. I get to see enormous sweetness between parents and children.
And one of the blessings to me is the chance to bless their relationship – to hold up to parents and children just how well they are doing. That happened for me with two particular families today.
Ira is a big, bruising guy who was so amazingly sweet with his five-year-old (I estimate) daughter – praising her in so many ways. For the way she put groceries on the belt from the cart in which she was standing: “I like the go-for-it way you stacked those boxes there” (5 high) – “they’re very even and balanced.”. For the way she bagged the groceries: “I really like the way you put the heavy stuff on the bottom.” (I bet he coached her on this on a previous trip.) “Hey, that was good thinking there – I like the way you did that.”
When I said to him how much I admired his parenting, he said, “You know, sometimes I’m sleep deprived and not as good as this. We have three-month old twins at home and it can all get kind of stressful. But we regard each of them as a blessing and they come each of them with their own personality and we want to support it.” He totally knocked me out – and I tried to get that across to him. He seemed to get it, to receive my affirmation. I think it made him feel good.
Later that same afternoon, a heavy mother came through with a likewise heavy daughter (maybe 10). They were both really sweet – and there was such a sense of comfort between them. I said to the mom, “You’ve got a great relationship.” She said, “Well, we like each other – we’re friends, in addition to being mom and daughter.” It really showed that they were friends. And they both lit up from having the light of affirmation shine on them.
No parent does a good job every moment. There is a real tendency for us to judge ourselves based on our weakest moments. To be witnessed doing well – and to have an outside person hold up that good moment, to be told that we are doing a good job – this can be powerful. To have the chance to do this witnessing and affirming, this can be very gratifying. Cashiering may often not seem like a powerful job, but here is a chance to make people feel better about themselves – now that’s power.