First of all, I must admit that this is not a post about writing, although I suppose if you think about it, it could still relate to writing in a way.
This is about an amazing thing that happened to me at, of all places, Wal-Mart this morning. It wasn’t something that I was looking for, but rather something that found me.
My son and I had gone to Wal-Mart to pick up a few things for dinner tonight (steak taquitos with guacamole and chips if anyone is interested). My son had gone off for a few minutes, so I decided to go through self-checkout and wait for him.
I had finished paying for my groceries and was putting the bags in the basket, when I noticed an older Hispanic lady coming toward me from the left. I thought that was a bit odd, since that direction was the exit for self-checkout. She moved slowly, and had just a few things in her cart. “Habla Espanol?” she asked me, smiling. I shook my head and said no.
She pushed her cart a bit closer to me, essentially blocking me in (I was at a corner register). She moved from the back of the basket to the side, and picked up a pair of shoes, handing them to me. I figured out she wanted help checking out. I scanned the shoes, put them in a bag; she handed me the money and I completed the transaction for her.
My son, by this time, had come looking for me. He looked at me with a puzzled expression. I told him everything was fine, and suggested he take the groceries to the car. “Are you sure?” he asked me. I nodded and said yes. I told him this nice lady needed some help and I would be there as soon as I was done.
After he left, I turned my attention back to her, and she pointed to the milk and water in her basket. I asked if she wanted me to check those out for her as well, pointing to the register. She nodded, so I again began to scan her items.
Just then, Francesca, one of the regular cashiers that I know and talk to whenever I am in there, came over to help. I knew she spoke Spanish and could help us finish things for this nice lady. As Francesca punched a few buttons on the screen for the lady’s bottled water, this lovely Hispanic lady placed a hand on my shoulder. I looked back at her. She smiled at me and said thank you to me in Spanish. I smiled back, patted her several times on the hand and told her “You’re welcome.”
Francesca and I walked away as the lady finished her transaction. I thanked her for coming over, and she asked me if I understood any Spanish at all. I laughed and said, “I understand “Hola” and “Adios”, that’s about it.” She laughed, saying, “But you do understand ‘thank you’, right?” I said, “Oh yes, that one I do know, too.”
But it wasn’t the understanding of the simple word “gracias” that touched me today. As a writer, I often struggle to find the words to let the reader know what my character is trying to say. Yet, those simple gestures and her gentle touch on my shoulder expressed more to me than a thousand words, or even one word, ever could. How ironic.
I do not know why she chose me to ask for help. But I do know that those few minutes meant more to me than anything in the world. Gracias, Senora, from the bottom of my heart.
Happy Thanksgiving to one and all. God bless you and your families this holiday season.