It's amazing what can happen just by paying attention. I never thought I would have a life-changing experience at Wal-Mart.
I don't remember the exact date I met Marty for the first time. Up to that moment, nothing that day seemed particularly important, certainly not what brought me to the store in the first place.
Like a lot of people who want to get through a checkout line, my thoughts were on speed, nothing more. The line I was standing in wasn't moving as quickly as I wanted and I glanced toward the cashier.
There stood an affable-looking man in his seventies. Slightly stooped and of average build, he wore glasses and a nice smile.
I thought, well, he's an old guy and it probably takes him a little longer to get the chores done.
For the next few minutes I watched him. He greeted every customer before he began scanning the items they were purchasing.
Sure, his words were the usual, "How's it going?" But he did something different - he actually listened to people. Then he would respond to what they had said and engage them in brief conversation.
I thought it was odd, but I guess I had grown accustomed to people asking me how I was doing simply out of a robotic conversational habit. After a while, you don't give any thought to the question and just mumble something back.
I could say, "I just found out I have six months to live," and someone would reply, "Have a great day!"
This old cashier had my attention. He seemed genuine about wanting to know how people were feeling. Meanwhile, the high-tech cash register rang up their purchases and he announced what they owed.
Customers handed money to him, he punched the appropriate keys, the cash drawer popped open, and he counted out their change. Then the magic happened.
He placed the change in his left hand, walked around the counter to the customer and extended his right hand in an act of friendship.
As their hands met, the old cashier looked the customers in the eyes.
"I sure want to thank you for shopping here today," he told them. "You have a great day. Bye-bye."
The looks on the faces of the customers were priceless. There were smiles and some sheepish grins. All had been touched by his simple gesture and in a place they never expected.
Some customers would walk away, pause for a moment and look back at the old cashier, now busy with the next customer. It was obvious they couldn't quite comprehend what had just happened. They would gather their things and walk out the door, smiling.
Now it was my turn. As expected, he asked me how I was doing. I told him I was having a good day.
"That's good," he said. "I'm having a good day, too." I glanced down at the name tag on his red vest, the kind experienced Wal-Mart cashiers wore. It read, "Marty".
I said, "It looks like you enjoy your job, Marty."
He replied, "I love my job. I look forward to every moment of every day."
Marty told me how much I owed and I handed him some money. The next thing I knew he was standing beside me, offering his right hand and holding my change in his left hand.
Smiling and with a firm handshake, he said, "I sure want to thank you for shopping here today. Have a great day. Bye-bye."
At that moment, it was as if Sam Walton had come back from the dead and invaded this old guy's body.
I left the store, walked through the parking lot and got into my car. On the drive home I couldn't shake what had just happened. I had been in that store a hundred times and had never walked away feeling like that.
As they say, "It's not the splash, but the ripples..."
My afterglow left me puzzled. I had questions.
Who was that guy? How, in two minutes in a checkout line, did he turn a Wal-Mart shopping experience into a V.I.P. Room, Paris experience? I felt like I had just left the most exclusive club I could imagine.
What was his secret? It seemed to me, if he had been a dentist, he could turn a root canal into a pleasant experience.
I think I could write a book on that two minute experience. Here is a guy that doesn't go looking for a reason to be happy...no, joyful; he brings it with him...and shares it with everyone he meets. He's not waiting for the big moment, he's creating them.
He's not powerful, wealthy or wellknown, but he left me and everyone else in that line feeling special, like we had value.
After thinking about it, something noticeably missing, was the awful weather report or the awful such and such; there was no negativity that permeated the air.
It was like I walked into a soul calming timeout aura to get recharged. I was feeling important and special, coming out of a Wal-Mart checkout line. How's he do that?
After a few times, you get to know him. He is the same to all-young, old, heavy, thin, black, white, rich or poor. He's still Marty and he makes you feel special. That moment is all about you.
We assume value is assigned by position and worth is net worth. Marty proves that is a very narrow view. People line up at Marty's register while other lines are almost empty.
We leave Wal-Mart with a good value on goods and a priceless euphoric extra that is very hard to find anywhere at any price.
Companies spend thousands of dollars to try to impart something to their employees that Marty gives away for free.
Marty proves it doesn't matter where we work or what we do, we can brighten our corner of the cosmos just by being there.
We don't go there to get something, we bring it with us and share it with everyone around us. A two minute example is worth a book of words.
When we die, our entire life will be represented by that dash between birth and death. Marty has put value in his dash. So can we.
Some people brighten a room just by being there. It is something they develop within and it radiates through their being into their environment.
Position can't do that to a person. It takes a person to do that to a position...any position.
An excerpt from The Richest Man in Town
By V. J. Smith
It is good to become a person of success, but it is better to become a person of value.
We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give.
There are no traffic jams on the extra mile.
Those who bring sunshine, get to share in its rays.
Life begins when we do.
Building character is like filling a bucket; one drop at a time. It is a process, not an event.
Example is not the main thing in influencing others; it is the only thing.
No one cares how much we know, until they first know how much we care.
The road to our success may require building the road.
The purpose of life is to create a life of purpose.
Caring more than others think is wise,
Risking more than others think is safe;
Dreaming more than others think is practical...
and Believing more than others think is possible.
Have a great day!