Liana asked me to take her to the mall to meet up with a friend so they could shop for an event next week. We had already hiked through the woods that morning, mushroom hunting with my biology classes. I was so tired, little sleep the night before. Liana and her friend set off on their own so I was feeling a little lonely as I perused the new stores in a new wing of our already too-big mall. I got a chai tea latte for a much needed caffeine boost. No coffee; it was too late in the day and would guarantee another sleepless night.
“Doddering old fool” came to mind as I trudged along. I was so weary and faced at least a couple of hours before I could retrieve Liana and go home. I watched the fashionable young girls strolling along, eyes glued to their cell phones. Cool moms in workout clothes with babies in strollers. Teenagers walking hand-in-hand. Old and out of touch, that’s me. I decided to go to Macy’s to look for a sale and find some stylish clothes that would jazz up my wardrobe. But I don’t like to shop without my daughters. They give the thumbs up or down on items I choose. I trust their judgment.
All the fall shirts are loose and long. I guess you need to wear them with leggings because they sure don’t look good with my jeans. Me in leggings? But they are very comfortable and like my mother always said, “Comfort before style!” But I was so indecisive. So I texted my girls. “Am I too old to wear leggings?” Liana was first to respond: “As long as ur butt is covered, ur fine.” Then Arielle: “It’s cute. Everyone can pull that off.” Really? For more reassurance, I asked the young cashier. She was so nice--warm and friendly! She didn’t seem bored with her job or tired of old lady questions. Of course, she said yes, leggings would be great. She is there to sell.
Next, I saw Bath and Body Works had a sale on hand soap. As soon as I walked in I was approached by a guy who just seemed to love his job. I had already chosen my soap but he encouraged me to smell each one first. I told him I had no sense of smell at all. So he said he would sniff them for me! And he was honest. “I won’t say this one is bad…just different.” Okay, back on the shelf. “This one just smells like soap.” Forget it. Then he said, “This is the one! You will love it!” If I could smell it, I guess. It was named Leaves. He recommended Snow, but I don’t like snow and don’t want to look at a picture of snow every time I wash my hands. I do like leaves though. What a nice young man! What was going on with people today?
I kept seeing signs for a new store—Kneipp. It advertised organic, vegan, chemical-free body care products with essential oils. I was actually looking for something like that for my daughter-in-law Gretchen. As soon as I walked in I was enveloped by the friendliest young women. A whole troupe of them welcomed me and said I was one of the very first customers! The store had just opened for the very first time. There was a ratio of about 12:1 employees to customers. I probably talked to six of them in the time I was there. They were all so helpful and nice. “What are you looking for?” “What is your daughter-in-law like?” They wanted to know so they could match just the right scent for her personality. Did I want bath oil, massage oil, hand lotion, body wash, body scrub, or bubble bath? I couldn't decide. Since I was one of the very first customers, I would also receive a gift. How nice. I thought I might get a sample bottle of something. So I found a gift for Gretchen and some baby wash for my precious little granddaughters and some arnica oil for Fred’s sore muscles. At check out of course they talked me into the membership card so I could get deals through my e-mail. I agreed because they were so nice! They handed me my purchases and then they gave me a big cloth drawstring bag of goodies!
I kind of collapsed in a chair outside the store to wait for Liana. I was so tired, but I felt such a peace. This was not like me. I’m usually stressed and rushed, always. I hate shopping generally and especially not at the mall alone. I texted Arielle and Liana to tell them about this great new store and then texted Fred to tell him I got him a gift. I thought about the bubbly, pink soap for Jordan and Teagan and hoped Gretchen would approve. I must have looked so ragged and worn as I sat there texting that a young woman stopped in front of me to ask if I was okay. Did I look that bad? Why was everyone so pleasant today?
Then I opened my free gift from Kneipp. This was not just a little sample bottle of something. The bag was full of all sorts of full-size products! I couldn’t believe it. For some reason I was really amazed by this. I even got tears in my eyes. No, not just for this bag of body care products, but for all the kindnesses shown to this old lady today. I know, people have motives for being kind. But they didn’t have to be. That young woman didn’t have to stop to check on me. And then I realized this whole shopping trip was a bag of gifts, given by God on the eve of my birthday when I am feeling old and used up. All the sweet souls who spoke to me today. Daughters and a husband, my daughter-in-law and my granddaughters. The day was washed in fairy light, magical and beautiful. It won’t always be this way. People will continue to be rude and impatient. I will too. But maybe I will remember to be kind and bring joy to someone else, even strangers in a store. Maybe that’s the lesson. So I wanted to pass it on to anyone who might read.