Today I worked. It was just a normal day of walking around, smiling, and helping people find great outfits. When you work in the customer service industry it's almost unnatural how much you smile at strangers, and how frequently you ask them how they are doing. I don't really mind though, everybody is pretty nice for the most part, and I like helping people, so it works out.
There are a lot of stairs in our store, the long set of cement stairs going up to the fitting room, and the short 3 steps going to the downstairs portion of the store. We have a lift, so we are handicap and stroller accessible, but it's really slow, and most people who have experienced the painfully slow lift just figure out a way to work around the stairs to avoid using it. I usually just keep an eye out for the elderly if they start to struggle, and am always ready to grab one end of a stroller to get it down the steps if need be. It's just part of it.
Its not uncommon for me to see a few ladies grasping the railing of the stairs to get down to where we keep all the sale items. At this point of the day I remembered seeing this three times, and all three times I stood close by ready to help if needed. The last of which was a middle aged woman, who seemed a little young to be struggling as much as she was. I occupied myself folding a shirt nearby, and when she had gotten down the stairs safely I continued on my work without saying anything.
I was working near the front greeting people as they walked in, which is admittedly the most difficult part of the job for me, because my voice doesn't carry very far and a lot of the people I greet don't actually hear me, so it makes me feel awkward. I power through that part of it though, because everything else is great.
While working up front I always take time to continue to help as many customers I can by asking them how they are doing. The typical responses are "I'm looking for a dress for a wedding that I'm going to..." or, "Do you have these plates?" as they pull up a picture on thier phone or, simply "I'm fine, thanks." We are constantly talking to our customers, starting fitting rooms and holding things at the register so our customers can shop to their hearts content completely unhindered. So it's not weird to be constantly asking people how they are doing or if they need anything, it's almost second nature once you get in the rhythm of it.
Without even really noticing I was walking by the middle aged woman who was earlier struggling on the steps. Instinctually I asked her how she was doing. I asked because every once in a while people need help to find the perfect pair of jeans to go with the top they are looking at, or I'm about the same size as thier granddaughter and they want to know what my dress size is. It's just part of the job.
The woman was very kind, but by the look on her face I could tell that she didn't think I was asking because she thought I wanted to help her find the perfect candle for her fall holiday party, she thought I was asking because she was stumbling from clothing rack, to table, to chair and back again. She thought I was concerned and genuinely wanted to know if she was going to be okay. Which was not my intent and I felt kind of badly for coming off that way.
I asked her how she was doing, and she smiled at me. As she turned and began stumbling the short distance to a nearby table she started speaking through her smile, "I'm walking, it's a big deal." It wasn't a normal response, so I was searching my brain and nothing was coming up that would sound normal to say back. I was quiet, but she continued, "I had a traumatic brain injury. Now I'm walking, it's a big deal." At this point I looked at her face as she was methodically plotting out each step she took and looked down at her feet and noticed how sometimes they would go where she wanted and other times she would have to figure out a way to correct the step she had just taken. Her friends were close by, I could tell by the looks on thier faces that they were full of joy, but they weren't overbearing as she stumbled around.
When she reached the table, I congratulated her. I told her that what she just told me was incredible, and assured her that she could walk around our store as much as she would like, it's truely a lovely place to do such a thing. As much as I wanted to know the whole story, I didn't ask. I let her continue on, and I went back to greeting more people... trying not to tear up.
I genuinely don't think I celebrate enough. Or let other people celebrate with me enough. Or celebrate with other people enough. And those few short words are almost haunting as they reverberate in my mind, "I'm walking, its a big deal." Life comes with its fair share of problems, things to overcome, and giants to face. It comes with bumps, bruises, scrapes, and scars. And while some things might hurt more than others pain is still pain, problems are still problems and the steps we have the strength to take should be a big deal. Those steps should be celebrated.
“Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down.”
Romans 12:15ish MSG
This verse just keeps coming back to my mind... and all I can think about is how I need to get better at doing this. From both sides of the coin. Both giving and taking.
I just feel like we all could benefit from saying things like this: "I know this is going to sound ridiculous, but I got out of bed this morning. It was really hard, but I did it. It's a big deal."
Or, I didn't overeat even though I wanted to...
Or, I let go of that relationship and it was really hard...
Or, today I chose to forgive someone who really hurt me...
Or, I decided to trust God with something that I've been holding on to for a long time...
Or, insert your own sentence here...
It's a big deal.
Then you celebrate even though tomorrow your going to wake up and go through all of it again.
We all have the things in our lives that are difficult to navigate. The things that might be hard to talk about. And while you may not be literally walking through a traumatic brain injury, pain is still pain. And one persons traumatic brain injury might be another persons break up, and one persons break up may be another's academic failure, and that failure may be someone else's death in the family. We honestly have no way of really knowing the true depth of another persons pain.
Maybe life just needs a little more empathy, and a lot less comparison, and a lot more of looking people in the eye and saying, "Yeah, that is a big deal."