I was speaking with a dear friend on the phone the other day when her voice took on an edge. 

“I wanted to run something past you, just to get your take on it,” she said, and proceeded to tell me her story.

She had been grocery shopping, only needing a few items.  As often happens at the grocery store, a couple turns into a few turns into a bunch, but she still felt that she qualified for the “15 items or less” express check-out line.  While waiting in line, she added a pack of gum and a magazine to her order.

She overheard the gentleman (and I use that term very, VERY loosely) behind her make a comment to the cashier.  While she missed most of it, she did hear the word “kindergarten”.  She felt an immediate flush of indignation tinged with embarrassment.

Realizing that she hadn’t caught his first insulting comment, the *ahem* Gentleman, who for our purposes we will call A.Hole, said to her “Did you go to school?”

(Pause for a WTF?!?! break while I think maliciously about what I might have done/said to Mr. A.Hole had I been there…)

OK, I’m back.  So…yeah, you’re right there seething with me, aren’t you?

But my friend?  My friend is a kindly saint.  She only smiled at A. Hole and said “I’m sorry, I thought that I was below the limit but apparently I’m a little over.” 

She had 20 items.

She left the store upset, almost wanting to cry, because of one person’s nasty comment.  And telling the story to me, neither one of us could figure out one key element:  WHY?  Why would someone go out of their way that way to make another person feel badly?  What could A. Hole have gotten from that exchange?

I certainly don’t know.

Myself?  I had quite a different shopping experience recently.  At a large discount store with a bad rep– OK, it was Wal-Mart.  (Don’t judge me, people!)  Walking in, there were sea-gulls all over, screeching and swirling, and finally attacking a piece of something they spied on the sidewalk. 

A woman hurrying by the other day met eyes with me, and we both smiled. 

She said “They’re attacking!”

While I responded “It’s like The Birds.”  We smiled and went on our way, but there was something about that simple connection that left me smiling.

When I was leaving, I packed my purchases into the car as the woman two cars over did the same.  Finished at the same time, we both kind of looked around the parking lot for the nearest cart return. 

She commented on it, and I said “It’s probably closer to just bring them up to the store.  Why don’t you give me your cart, and I’ll take them both?”

“You’re younger – you probably have young children you have to get back to.  My kids are all grown – I have nowhere to hurry off to.  I’ll take your cart.”

I was dumbfounded.  I’ll see your kindness, and raise it!  “Are you sure?” I asked.

“Positive,” she said, as she pushed the carts together and headed toward the store. 

I stood there with my hands over my chest like an idiot, before calling out “Thank you!  Happy holidays!”

Do you see the difference, though?  Of course you do. 

You can be an A. Hole this holiday season, or you can be a Parking Lot Angel.  The choice is yours – neither position takes a whole lot of effort.  Make the right choice:  share the joy.