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What we can learn from the Wal-Mart Girl

woman holding her hat while smiling

    Do you ever have a brief interaction with someone that leaves such a striking and unforgettable impression on you? Whether its a complete stranger or someone you’ve known your whole life?

    I’ve had a few of those, but I think that the one that has stuck with me the longest is the interaction I had with a cashier at Wal-Mart. I was very little at the time, probably six or seven years old if I had to guess. My mom had to stop into Wal-Mart on the way back from my dance lesson. I don’t remember what she needed to buy, but I remember checking out. The cashier was a young girl, maybe a teenager. She smiled so brightly at us, speaking so cheerfully that my actually felt compelled to comment on it.

    “You seem very happy,” my mom remarked—not rudely, but curiously. It was as if this Wal-Mart cashier had some secret to happiness that my mom wished to know.

    I still remember the young lady giving us another smile as she shrugged. “I don’t know. I think I only have one emotion, and it’s happy.”

    I don’t recall much after that, just the fuzzy memory of walking into the Wal-Mart parking lot to locate our car. But something about that cashier always stuck with me.

    Joy is such a beautiful virtue. There’s something so sunny within a joyful person, and their cheerfulness is infectious. The Wal-Mart girl demonstrated in such a beautiful way the impact you can leave on another person in such a short period of time. I was just this tiny girl, feeling sour that I had to be dragged into Wal-Mart. And today, years later, I still contemplate that brief conversation we had, and how deeply it affected me.

    Joy does spread. But so does unkindness, resentment, and hatred. If the Wal-Mart girl had been having a rotten day, we would have never known, because she made a choice to project love onto us. But she also would have had the choice to project her negativity onto us. And, quite frankly, being kind and joyful takes effort. It’s something one has to cultivate.

    I still like to think about Wal-Mart girl and all she’s taught me. She taught me to make the effort to cultivate kindness and to shun rudeness, bitterness, and even indifference. Because who knows who you’re going to impact with your smile, your kind words, and your simple actions.

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