And yes, I know I spend entirely too much time at Walmart. There are times when I'm headed elsewhere, but the same general direction, and I somehow just wind up there. It's like my car has autopilot and takes me where it thinks I want to go, not necessarily where I intended to go.
This time being there was intentional; not for the $1 cup of Diet Coke, but to pick up a necessity or two.
And yes, a 12 pack of Cherry 7 Up Plus soda is a necessity. Without it, my head will start to spin in circles, otherwordly voices erupt from my mouth, followed by gushes of Exorcist Pea Soup.
I got there just before a mini-rush, and watched as people filtered by: three men in business suits. A woman and a boy about 8 years old. An older woman, who shuffled along slowly, and leaned heavily on a cane while she waited her turn to order.
I was caught up in appreciating the dignity of how she carried herself--slow but determined, aged but not old, even though she looked to be in her late 80s; she was alone and it was obvious it didn't bother her in the least--I didn't stop to wonder how this frail yet obviously strong woman was going to juggle the fatigue of her steps, the cane she clutched determinedly, and the tray topped with food she had just ordered. Not until her number was called and she was inching her way down the counter, ready to reach for the tray.
I felt the muscles in my legs twitch as the thought filled my head: she needs help.
The three suits stood there, hands in pockets, staring at her. Not one made so much as a miniscule move to help. Along with the thought that this woman probably needed help and might not ask for it was the distaste of realizing these probably otherwise nice guys, who were right there, were too self absorbed--either in the moment or just in general--to offer any kind of assistance.
As the woman's hand went to the tray, I felt myself push on the table as I was about to get up, wondering if the words "Lazy little things, aren't you?" would actually tumble from my lips as I elbowed past them.
I never actually got up, though. This 8 year old boy pushed past them and asked the woman quite firmly, "Can I help you carry your tray, please?"
He had authority in his young voice. It wasn't a question so much as "I am going to carry your tray."
She smiled and thanked him, and he carried that tray--trailing behind her very slowly--as far as she needed him to, and went back to his mother. I'm sure she was proud of him and I hope she told him so...but I don't think any of those three grown men who stood there playing with keys or loose change in their pockets even realized they had just been completely outclassed by someone who probably still picks a booger or two and eats it.
I can't presume that all three of those men were selfish idiots. Face it, the tide of interpersonal chivalry has turned. Men get blasted for holding doors for women, and women sometimes erupt in red hot lava flows of I Don't Need Anyone's Help For Anything Ever. For all I know they used to scramble to be considerate and helpful and were yelled at one time too many. Or they all think they're God's gift to humankind and carrying some older woman's hamburger and fries is beneath them.
I'll never know. I can be as irritated as I want, but I'll never know what their story is.
That little boy, though...he's got at least one thing right in his young life, and I hope he doesn't think it's exceptional. I hope he just thinks it's What You Do.