Is it YOU or ME?
Yesterday while shopping at the Mayfair Mall in Wauwatosa, WI something happened and I put together a few things.
TO preface, earlier in the week I was going for a run in our small town. Though town is culturally diverse it seems rarest to see African Americans, so when I saw a young man in a hoodie walking towards me with head set on I noted. Tall, slim, nice looking young man; I was not at all concerned, and I did not hesitate to continue running towards him. Additionally, I smiled and said “hello” as we passed. He said nothing and I noticed he was looking to his right and veering right also, as IF to avoid me. I don’t know why, but I continued running though I felt sad IF this was reflective of his comfort.
ON to Thursday my shopping trip to the mall. I had 2 pair of tall boots to return to Macy’s. Not sure of where to go, and NOT wanting to return to the car twice (I am capable of using ALL extremities to maneuver the awkward load), I attempted to struggled both boxes and my large purse. It was unstable and the boxes slippery so I could hardly hold them. But I was determined to continue. I had almost reached the door I heard a young man was yelling. I turned to see if I was the one being called, and saw he was heading toward me. I had not noticed the 30″ish” young African American with the boxes, but I stopped as he got closer to me and he said, “excuse me miss, you dropped something” I looked down and saw the sales receipt from my packages floating away in front. I managed to catch it being closest, but he was also moving toward the paper. I told him that it was my receipt and thanked him for alerting me. (NO one wants to attempt a return without a receipt) He smiled and went on his way with his companion. Inside the doors there were 3 or 4 Salvation Army volunteers furiously ringing bells that grew louder when one of them opened the doors for me and my parcels, and wished me Merry Christmas. I thanked them. HONESTLY, I did NOT notice ethnicity of anyone in the group, but I did note subdued “jingles” when I said I would be back to the “red kettle” later, but sensed they had heard that before. Noting to myself, “be sure to return.”
Inside the store I returned the boots. There were 2 clerks in the department that to me were close to amazing despite the customers and the requests. I felt bad I was contributing to their busy Pre-Christmas work load. The clerk handling my return was African American and was expedient, considerate, and even smiling. After the return was complete, the second clerk led me around the department with a scanner asking me what size/style I was looking for. I had to move to keep up as she did not linger at any pair of boots, just long enough to scan and move towards other selections. She led me to a chair where a 3rd clerk brought out a stack of 5 pair of boots I had smiled at. While I tried on different styles I spoke to the another woman visiting from CA. She was also a customer trying on shoes and she was African American. We had a lengthy conversation about respective considerations as we considered shoe options and relative conditions we would negotiate. Her visit was not for the holiday, she was tending her 89 year old aunt who was under Hospice care. I relayed some personal experiences about my elderly parents passing a few years ago, and told her I know it is a difficult time; but she was special to be here with her aunt at this time. I was struck by her openness and warmed by her smile. After weighing on on my choices I purchased her recommendation. Her choice of some warm weather shoes of Donald J Pliner were endorsed by me. We wished each other safe travels, and warm wishes for the Holidays and I went on my way.
Before I got to the exit, I set my purchase down to find $20 in my purse for the “red kettle.” When I reached the door a single “bell ringer” held it open. He was tall and much older African American and moved to the next door while I deposited the bill. I had seen this man when I was trying to find a parking space…he was heading into the store. I had noticed he looked happy and light on his feet as he was heading into Macy’s; my speculating at the time he had a close parking spot while I was still hunting. I felt completely comfortable relaying to him the previous group may not have expected me back. He smiled, and said, “oh, that’s just kids……” We both laughed, and I wished him Happy Holidays, though I was sure I could have said “Merry Christmas” to him without him being offended.
Sooo, with the confusion generating discussions, and things I have experienced and considered, in 61+ years I personally have been damaged, dismissed, disregarded, and discouraged from many things. I don’t know if I have been successful to anyone but myself; but I know I keep focused forward.
SO referring back to the young man I encountered while I ran??? I had the question Is it ME or is it YOU? In MY humble opinion, it is NOT about race, culture, or creed, it IS about eye contact. That is what has NEVER let’s me down. AND Merry Christmas.