I was doing some Christmas shopping today, merrily minding my own business. I was the only person waiting in a cordoned-off line for one of three open registers in front of me. That’s when a middle-aged woman walked up to one of the counters with her purchases, completely ignoring me, and waited for the cashier to finish ringing up the customer she was with at the time. Essentially, as my 9-year-old would say, she took cuts.
I stood there in line, with an armful of heavy bags and juggling my loot, trying to decide what I should do. Should I say something? I could politely say, “Excuse me…the line is back here.” But then again, it is Christmas time. I could graciously let her go ahead of me and I could just forget about it. It would only mean a couple more minutes to wait, and I wasn’t in a hurry.
In the end, I didn’t say anything. She made her purchases without even glancing my way as though she knew she was doing the wrong thing, but didn’t care. If she didn’t make eye contact, she didn’t have to feel badly. It was not a big deal. I waited until she was done, made my purchase, and was gone within five minutes. But still, I was left feeling like a push-over. She “got away” with being rude and inconsiderate. And while I didn’t mind waiting the extra five minutes–in fact if she would have asked permission to go ahead of me because she was in a hurry, I would have said yes without hesitation–I also didn’t want her to think she could take advantage of me. I didn’t want to be seen as “weak”, I guess. I didn’t want to be taken for a fool.
I often feel the same way on my way to work. There are two separate men who often stand at the top of the freeway exit near my job, holding signs that say “Hungry. Please help” or another similar message. At different times, I have happily given those men the lunch I packed, or a few extra dollars from my wallet, or a cup of hot coffee. I don’t mind doing it. It’s no trouble for me, and if the roles were reversed I would hope that they would do the same. But at the same time, I wonder about those men. What do they do with that money, or that lunch? Have they decided that it’s “easier” to take other people’s money and food than to work for their own? Am I just another poor fool that’s willing to offer up what I have? It’s one thing to be gracious, but it’s another to be gullible. Which am I?
I guess the bottom line is this: should I worry more about my intentions, or the intentions of others? Is it more honorable to be generous and trusting, even if it means that others sometimes take advantage of me? And what does that make me: a girl who puts others before herself, or a pushover? I choose to call myself a girl who puts others first. But I must admit that sometimes, I can’t help feeling like a doormat.