One cold and dreary day, after having been held hostage indoors by the grip of winter, I decided to break loose from the prison of inclement weather and hit a shoe sale. I had grown weary of the preceding weeks of sun deprivation and needed something that would break the monotony of my life – something that would lift my spirits.
Shortly after I arrived at the shoe store, I carefully selected my two pairs of shoes for the “Buy One Pair, Get the Other Pair Half Price” deal and was ready to purchase. As I moved my way up to the checkout counter, a middle-aged woman carrying at least six boxes of shoes whisked past me, cut in line and advanced directly to the cashier. An exhausted looking young woman and a bubbly toddler, unmistakably the woman’s daughter and grandson, stood by her side.
I was already furious that the woman had cut line, when suddenly she fueled my anger even more as she began spewing out questions to the cashier like a volcano erupting with red-hot lava. She demanded details about every pair of shoes she had selected.
“So, if I buy this pair, I can get these other ones half off?” the agitated shoe lady bellowed.
The cashier shook her head no.
“Oh, I guess it’s always the cheaper pair that you get half off,” the shoe lady said, thinking out loud in an intimidating voice that echoed throughout the store.
As the cashier attempted to respond again, the anxious shoe lady began shouting an order to her daughter: “Stephanie, run get your baby another pair of shoes. Lord knows he needs all the shoes he can get!”
The dimply youngster, probably not much older than a year, immediately darted after his mother, wide-eyed and full curiosity. He playfully yanked at all of the boxes along the shelves as he wobbled down the aisle, amazed at this magical playhouse filled with colorful adornments for the feet.
“Boo-Boo,” the grandmother screamed at the toddler viciously, “if you don’t get back here, I’ll shoot you!” It was a shocking, bizarre statement that was full of contradiction. In one breath, she was calling her grandson by a pet name, and in the other she was threatening to shoot him. Everyone in the store was stunned by the gruesome comment. We all stood amidst the pin-drop silence and stared, wondering what histrionics might be next.
Stephanie soon came back and handed her mother another pair of shoes. After balancing them on her stack, the boisterous shoe lady then asked the cashier, “Got any more of these in another color?” pointing to one of her boxes near the top of the stack.
“No,” the cashier said, noticeably irritated by this time. “Only in black.”
At this point, the shoe lady turned to me and said, “So sorry to keep you waiting sugar,” and immediately went to other shelves to find more bargains to add to her toppling stack of boxes. The stack now resembled the Leaning Tower of Piza.
At that instant, I realized there had been complete sincerity in this woman’s voice. She seemed truly sorry to hold me up, but her “impulsiveness” was creating this urgent need to grab up as many bargains as she could for her daughter, her grandson and perhaps herself. The adrenaline from it all had become so overpowering that it had taken over her actions, and caused her to blurt out ugly comments to her grandbaby that she absolutely didn’t mean. She couldn’t restrain herself. It was filling her with a combination of excitement, impulsiveness and compulsive behavior.
She was overflowing with more questions for the cashier, and continued adding to her stack for at least 10 more minutes. Strangely, my anger towards her began to subside and transform into understanding and compassion. Although she “appeared” selfish, hasty and mean as she bellowed orders and kept customers waiting, her motives, I realized, were good.
I decided to entertain myself by looking at the purses near the checkout counter until the woman was finished with her mission.
When the shoe lady was finally certain she had gotten all of the bargains she could possibly afford, and had created a mountainous potpourri of shoes for her loved ones, she grabbed up her sacks of treasures and politely said to the cashier, “Thank you so much darlin’.”
Instantly, her stormy behavior transformed into calming seas of relief – every muscle in her face became relaxed; her breathing and erratic movements slowed. The impulsiveness had lost its grip on her body and spirit, and her mission was complete. The sweetness in her tone had flavored her speech so that the bitterness was gone. I knew she was truly sorry for holding everyone up.
I had a revelation that day. People aren’t always what they seem. Sometimes those who exhibit a snappy, angry and inconsiderate spirit are simply so wound up by impulse, compulsiveness and stress that it’s hard for them to restrain from their bad behavior. Does this mean we should always forgive and forget? I’m not sure. I do know that there are people who are mean down to the core and who know exactly what they are doing when ugliness pours forth from their mouths.
But every single one of us has God in them. Sometimes it is seems almost impossible to find Him, but He is there. Always. I also realized that day that there are also people who don’t even know God is inside of them. They just have to be able to recognize Him in others first. That is when they are able to discover the God who lives within their soul. This woman had God in her “sole.”
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THE AUTHOR: Melinda Neeley is a freelance writer from Morrilton, Arkansas. During her early years as a journalist, she was a reporter for the Log Cabin Democrat and a feature writer for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. She was also editor of several local newsletter publications and publications assistant for the Small Business Advancement National Center at the University of Central Arkansas. Her published writings include: “House of Stone,” Reflections: A Poetry Quarterly, Winter 96-97; “The Cemetery Women,” www.healingwordspress.com, Fall 2003; and “From the Hollow of a Bell,” Ascent Magazine, www.bcsupernet.com/users/ascent/, February 2004. "From the Hollow of a Bell" was also released last spring in a short story anthology, Clerestory, published by DLSIJ Press. Currently, she and her husband run their own construction firm. She also enjoys writing mini biographies for people who wish to have lively, inspirational accounts of their lives recorded on archival paper. You may contact Melinda via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.