“There will always be a reason why you meet people. Either you need them to change your life or you’re the one that will change theirs.”
Angel Flonis Harefa
Patiently, I waited my turn making sure to stand at least six feet away from the woman in front of me. I had stopped at the local supermarket to grab a few quick things but nowadays there is no such thing as quick. I have no idea how many people were in line behind me but I would guess there were at least 10. I must have been daydreaming hoping to be anyplace else but in a crowded supermarket when the employee monitoring the line called out to me, “Register 14, please.”
I looked up shyly at the employee. “I’m sorry. Did you say 14?”
Turning to face her, I tried to picture her face. Her voice sounded almost fleeting and surreal behind her white mask. It is very difficult communicating these days but even more so for the hearing impaired. Honestly, I never realized just how much I rely on reading lips until COVID-19.
She glanced at me momentarily and quickly turned her attention to the long line of registers. “Yes, 14.” Still, unsure if she said 14 or 13, I decided to go with my gut and head over to register 14. Once there, I noticed that register 13 was empty and there was someone ahead of me in 14. I started to second guess myself and wondered again if I had misunderstood her. My first thought was to just head into the empty aisle but something told me to stay put.
After a few minutes, the customer ahead of me paid and left and I proceeded to put my things on the checkout counter. The young woman working the register looked over at me quizzically. Even though her face was covered, her kind eyes welcomed me.
“Do you have any coupons?”
“Oh, I’m sorry . . . what did you say?”
“Do you have any coupons? She repeated.
“No, I don’t.”
“Do you have anything at the bottom of your cart?”
“I’m sorry. I’m hearing impaired. Did you ask if I have anything at the bottom of my cart?”
She gave me a quick nod affirmatively.
“No, nothing. Thanks.”
She then proceeded to scan my items as I began to help her bag my items.
Raising her voice slightly so that I could hear her she noted, “My son is hearing impaired. So I understand.”
Looking up at her, I smiled beneath my mask. “Oh, really?” She went on to tell me that that he was seven year’s old and would be mainstreamed in the local public school. I stopped bagging for a moment and gave her my full attention.
“That’s interesting because my mother fought for me to attend a Catholic school when I was the same age. I was born with a disability known as cerebral palsy.”
Undeniable shock now peered through her brown eyes. “OMG, my son has cerebral palsy!”
“I can’t tell that you have CP at all. Can I ask what you do for a living?”
“Sure, I’m an author and motivational speaker.”
At that moment, I could see her eyes begin to water as an impatient customer now showed up in register 14 waiting for his turn. I pretended not to notice his stares knowing the universe had put me in register 14 for a reason.
We chatted for a few more minutes and she finally said, “Thank you so much. You never know the truth about someone just by looking at them.”
“You’re very welcome. And, yes, that’s very true. You will never know what someone is really going through. But you can tell a lot about someone when you take the time to look through their eyes. Or maybe I should say behind the masks.”
She gave me a slight chuckle as she handed me my receipt. The early stages of tears still apparent in her eyes.
“Do me a favor and tell your son to always get back up, no matter what happens in life.”
She looked up at me—a tear now rolling down her face. “Thank you. Thank you so much.”
Somehow I knew she could see me smiling as I walked away from register 14. I made my way towards the exit and into the parking lot feeling much lighter than I did when I walked in. Life really does have a way of putting us in the right place at the right time. For me, it was register 14.