I want to share with you today a personal experience, something that happened to me just a few hours ago and I have been pondering. Now you can ponder with me... I was in the check-out lane at the grocery store. The woman in front of me seemed to be having some issues with some of the items she was purchasing. Two cashiers were trying to help sort things out. I couldn't help but notice (as the lanes don't lend themselves to much privacy, despite my efforts to remain engaged in the magazines in the rack and not notice what was going on with this woman). I caught a glance of her WIC paperwork and it seemed as if the issue had to do with what was/was not authorized. It didn't seem to be about the actual product but maybe the brand? I don't know. I normally try to keep my nose out of it, but the situation was too close to ignore. It was taking a while and the woman who was next in line behind me got in a different line. I considered getting in a different line, but there was something about this situation that made me want to stay. I don't know what I thought I was going to do. I wondered if she was embarrassed by the "scene" she was creating with the papers shuffling, the two clerks puzzling over the register. Finally I decided maybe she would just as soon not have someone standing in line right behind her, witnessing all of this hoopla, so I went to the next line. But, I kept checking out of the corner of my eye over my shoulder if she was getting her situation resolved.
She finished just as I finished and she proceeded to the exit just ahead of me. I kept watching her. She reached for her sunglasses, put them on, and then it looked as if she wiped away a tear. I wanted to reach out and put my hand on her shoulder and ask her if she was okay. But, I didn't know her from Adam. I thought, "what if she is indeed totally fine. What if that wasn't a tear she was wiping away but just brushing a strand of hair away from her face? What if she would be annoyed to learn that I had been taking all this in, this business which was none of my business?"
So, I got in my van. I have scenarios like this occur many times a week. Sometimes a little comment is obviously appropriate. Sometimes not saying anything is obviously the route to go. But, most of the time I am in a dilemma about whether or not to say something, to put a hand on their shoulder so they don't feel so alone. But, maybe they don't want to know someone noticed their loneliness. Then they may feel shame as well.
But, I doubt it. So, what should I have done? I am working on being more courageous in moments such as this. But, not only more courageous but more discerning, to be able to have a better sense for the situation, whether or not I should say something. Balancing respect and compassion is sometimes a tricky act. Wise people do it well; the rest of us just sort of flounder.
I am going to keep an eye out for this woman, to see if I might get a second chance to do what maybe I should have done the first time around. Time will tell.
Blessings to you, my friends.