By Jane -Ann Heitmueller
May the unique facets of each new day bring
joy to your heart and harmony to your soul.
Have you ever considered what a difference a mere five seconds could mean to your life? Five seconds for me to walk from the locked door back to my car. Only five seconds until I heard the slight "click", which caused me to glance back and see her walking away from the now unlocked door.
The view of her backside was my first impression. Her girth was the width of the door itself. Although the early morning August heat was already nearly intolerable, she was dressed in faded blue jeans, olive, long sleeved winter sweater and calf high tan boots trimmed in fur; with an abundant, tousled gray mane cascading across her slumped shoulders. A momentary apparition that suddenly vanished from my view, swallowed up in the shadows.
How lucky I am today I thought, smiling smuggly to myself at the idea of such good fortune. Another few seconds and I would have gotten back into the car and driven away from the thrift store, missing some good buys, hidden treasures. Little did I know what pleasure and surprise those few seconds would mean to my life today. What an unexpected gem awaited me beyond that door.
As the earliest shopper that morning I leisurely rummaged to my heart's content and only saw her when she suddenly appeared from one of the aisles, cheerfully smiling, inquiring if she could be of any assistance. "Can I help you find something, sweetheart?" she asked.
It was at this point , meeting face to face, that I realized she wore thick wire rimmed glasses and suffered from an apparent sight problem. It was difficult to tell her age, which I estimated to be mid fifty. Her puffy, gray skin showed signs of poor nourishment and neglect and her clothes seemed rumpled, but her merry attitude and helpfulness made all these negative attributes instantly evaporate. Her pleasant, sincere smile, kindness and unpretentiousness drew me in immediately. I had to know this lady better!
With a pair of bedroom slippers and little cotton dress in hand I sauntered to the checkout counter. There she was again and I heard her say to the rotund, disheveled fellow across the counter, as she unabashedly leaned forward to draw his face to hers and plant a firm, affectionate kiss on his sweaty forehead. "Bye, I'll see you tonight, sweetheart."
"Oh my!" I said, flashing a coquettish grin at the love birds, "Do all your customers get one of those?" "He's my boyfriend!" she proudly announced and lovingly watched as he exited the front door. Ah, I thought, how wonderful to have such giddy feelings at their age, wondering if they lived together.
"You've really done a great job with this place. Everything is grouped so well. It's easy to find things."
"Thank you, sweetheart, " she answered." I use to work in the largest book store in Tampa and had to keep everything organized. The back room here drives me crazy...it's a mess, but I'll get it straightened out soon.
I had to quit that job because I was allergic to all the printer ink and mold on the old books and spent many days at the doctor. One day the owner asked me to dust all the shelves and I told him I just couldn't do it and not be sick. He didn't believe me, so I did as he ordered and ended up spending a week in the hospital. He never asked me to do that again!"
As we chatted it was easy to see that she was intelligent and well educated. I was impressed by her conversation skills, knowledge and self confidence, which far exceeded my initial expectations. I discovered myself longing to sit down and share a cup of coffee with this total stranger, hear her views on life and love. Listen, as she relayed stories from her past, never doubting that they would be interesting and colorful!
"We stay pretty busy here, but there are only two of us working today," she said. "They need to hire more workers, but can't afford to pay more people."
" May I ask you a question?" I said. Surprising myself at being so bold with a total stranger.
"Certainly, sweetheart," "Are you paid minimum wage and do you have any health benefits?"
" Yes, minimum wage, but no health benefits." "That's a real shame," I said. "Hardly enough to get by."
"How much do I owe you?" "Four dollars, and thank you for shopping with us, sweetheart. Have a lovely day."
"You're welcome, and I hope you have a very happy day, too."
Just as I turned to leave another customer came through the door. "Good morning, sweetheart. Can I help you find something?"
A chance encounter, an inspiring human connection... made possible by only five seconds.