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Moments Shared with Strangers

imgresMy friend, Kim, shared a grocery store experience that she called Memories Shared Between Strangers. Kim stood in a check out line between two strangers. A man, about age 80, in front of her and a man close to her age behind her. After the cashier scanned Kim’s groceries, he asked if Kim wanted to contribute one-dollar to St. Jude Hospital. Kim agreed, and then the clerk asked if she wanted her name on the donation. Kim shook her head. The customer behind her said, “Just write Bozo.”

“His comment led to a trip down memory lane for both of us,” Kim told me. “We reminisced about Bozo, Ms. Nancy and the Romper Room, the Magic Mirror and Captain Kangaroo. I remembered that when I was a kid I received a postcard from Ms. Nancy and my momma still has it. The young cashier probably thought we were crazy, but the stranger and I shared smiles and good memories.”

When Kim picked up her grocery bags, she noticed the older man who’d been in front of her was still standing close and was smiling. He’d heard the conversation. Kim wondered why he’d stayed to listen. Was it memories of his child watching those programs? Kim ended her story with these words: “Whatever it was, all three of us, all complete strangers, shared something special together in that moment. We all left the store a little happier.”

Last week as I put a few items on the check out counter at Hobby Lobby, the woman in front of me said, “Did you get my candy?” and she held up a candy bar for the clerk to see. The clerk shook her head, scanned the candy bar, and started to put it a plastic bag with the woman’s other purchases. “Oh, no,” the woman said, “the chocolate goes in my purse. I’m eating it as soon as I get to the car.” I laughed.

“I’m glad someone else treats herself after shopping,” I said. “I do that, too, sometimes.”

The clerk chuckled and then said, “It’s not just on your side of the counter. I’ve got M&Ms in my pocket right now. That’s my break time treat.” So while the clerk scanned my purchases, we three women laughed and talked about our need for an afternoon chocolate snack.

Maybe no one connects with smiles more often than we grandparents. It happens almost every time I have a Grand with me. I buckled Micah, 17 months old, in his car seat in my van parked in a store parking lot. As I started to close the van door, I heard a man’s voice. “Hello, there!” I turned and saw a gray-headed man, a stranger with a big smile. He stopped a few feet from me. “Is it okay if I say hello to your little guy?” It was. He made a silly face and noise and Micah laughed, and of course, both we adults laughed. The man and I talked briefly about the joys of grandchildren. He waved good-bye to Micah and went on his way.

Brief encounters. Just a few words. Shared memories. Mutual cravings for chocolate. Laughing with another grandparent. One or two minutes spent talking and laughing with total strangers. Here in the South, we call that being friendly.

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