There are times when I wonder who I used to be. What was I like? How many human beings I breezed on past during my daily life without a thought. Such was the situation yesterday as I stood in the checkout line at the Dollar General.
The pretty young girl in front of me was buying a rug...the kind you put in your kitchen doorway so people can wipe their muddy boots on the cute little apple decorations you've chosen for your "theme." She was quiet and didn't make eye contact with the cashier who took her money and handed her her change. It was her startling lack of human contact that made me really look at the cashier. Much to my surprise, instead of the vacant look I was expecting to see, I caught her wiping away a tear. She was trying to hide it...but she was definitely crying.
I startled the pretty young girl in front of me when I asked the cashier, "Are you ok?" In fact, the pretty young girl looked at me like I had lost my mind and scurried away, out the door to her car, as fast as her little legs would carry her.
It was that simple question...the one that I've been asked so many times...that just opened the flood gates for the cashier and it all came tumbling out. "My three month old baby boy had to go to the hospital." I asked her why and she said he had a temperature of 103.7 that wouldn't come down.
I watched her struggle to maintain some composure...to hide her tears...but she couldn't. Her son was born March 7th, was LifeFlighted to Cleveland, and spent March 7th through the 16th in the intensive care unit of one of the children's hospitals there. Being too personal, I asked why and she told me he had inhaled meconium during delivery and ended up with pneumonia and meningitis. She tried to smile as she said, "I guess that really did a number on me."
As she was making my change, she said she was thinking of going to be with him right that moment. I smiled a little as she handed me my inaccurate change (off by just two cents) and said, "You should, you're not going to be able to concentrate here until you see him with your own eyes and know that he's ok." She closed her register and tearfully said, "I'm going to go talk to the manager right now," as she walked out from behind the checkout counter.
I walked out of the store, got in my empty minivan, and cried for her.
I didn't even catch her name.