I was hurrying through my list and getting frustrated by the fact that I had to go from end to end of the store to get things I overlooked on my first trip through the aisles. There were lots of other people in the store this afternoon, all on similar missions to mine, so I was held up more than once while waiting for another patron to make their selection with their cart parked out in the middle of the aisle.
When I was finally finished and ready to head to the checkout, each register had about 3 people waiting. I sighed and started to push my cart towards the front.
I heard this really loud jingling - like there were about a dozen Salvation Army bell ringers somewhere nearby - and looked up to see a dancing, stuffed elf hat on one of the shelves between me and the register. To my right, I heard giggling and saw a 10 year old boy dart towards the dancing hat - while leaving his cart directly in front of mine with no room to get around.
An exasperated voice said, "Tony, you can't leave your cart in the middle of the aisle! Come back here!" When I looked to see the person attached to the voice, I saw a dad with three other kids in tow. The poor guy looked like he had been through quite the afternoon.
In that moment, I knew I had a choice: I could either silently push past the abandoned cart with a grimace on my face, or I could offer a word of encouragement to a guy that was clearly having "one of those days".
I put on my biggest smile, and said, "How could he not stop? It's a singing, jingling elf hat! No big deal - I can go around." The dad smiled a very relieved smile, and I saw his shoulders drop about 6 inches. The little boy came back to his dad with a grin on his face and started dancing along to the music eminating from the hat. We all just laughed!
It was a small moment, a tiny gesture, and honestly, not that big a deal in the grand scheme of things - but it gave me pause. In EVERY moment, we have choices like that: we can grimace our way through or offer a smile and kind word, we can sulk in silence or pick up the phone, or we can walk away mad or turn and try to have a civil conversation. I think it all adds up. After that brief encounter, I was in a better mood and carried that home with me. I was excited to share that moment with my husband and with you, and I know that the dad with four kids was grateful to have a positive interaction rather than a negative one.