A Five Dollar Smile

I stood in line last night behind four different women.  I think two of them were together, if not they either knew each other or the one just felt free to complain to the one behind her.

Facing each of the women was the cashier.   Her face was soft.  Kind.  But blank.  To me she seemed to just be trying to get through the night.  In her dark hair was a black and white bow, nothing big.  But it made me think of the effort she took to get ready for the day.  To face the different looks that would be looking back at her.

The first lady in line when I got there was all business.  Coupons.  Sales ads.  Making sure she got every penny’s worth for her very detailed shopping.   The cashier was very patient and helpful.

The next woman in line was not so patient.  She was audibly sighing.  Looking back and forth over registers to see if other lines were less busy.  Doing the shoulder shrug of an all too busy human being to wait in line for purchases.  She turned to the woman behind her and said “they need more help working”.   The cashier softly answered while she worked with her customer “we have everyone working we can”.   Both she and the lady she was helping tried to work through the pile of purchases.

The woman who spoke rolled her eyes.  The woman she spoke to busied herself looking at candy stacked by the conveyor belt, she didn’t appear to want to look like she agreed with the snarkiness of the impatient woman.

When impatient woman went through the line she spoke to the cashier but only with business needs and only with curt responses.

The next lady seemed reserved but not unkind.  The cashier was kind.  But neither of these ladies pulled each other out of their shell.   Both just wanted to get through their night.

The next lady was just quiet.  Kind of leaning on her cart.  Looking tired.

But when the cart leaning lady stepped up in line she stood up straight and said “hi!  how ya’ doing?” as she dumped her stuff on the belt and pushed her cart up to the end of the belt.

The cashier said “I’m doin'”

The lady said “well that doesn’t sound like happy doin’.  Surely you’re almost done with your shift.”  All the while the two of them processed the purchase.  The cashier said no.  Her shift still had hours to go.  And next week was going to be worse.  She anticipated some 24 hour days.   The shopper lady handed the cashier cash.  And while the cashier was counting out change the shopper kept talking.

“I would like you do to me a favor”.  The cashier stopped counting.  “No keep doing that.  I’d like for you to do something after your shift.”  Cart leaning shopper had the cashier’s attention, and mine.  The cashier was handing her her change.  I could see a five dollar bill and a one dollar bill.  The shopper pulled the one dollar bill out of her hand, leaving the five dollar bill.  “After your shift you take that and go some place and buy your self a hot chocolate or something.  From someone who understands how hard it is to work through the holidays.  And then…maybe smile a little bit because someone else understands.  And we’ll be doin’ okay together.  Just for a minute.”

That cashier held that five dollar bill out like she was showing off a prized painting.  And smiling.  Really smiling.

The cart leaning lady grabbed her bags, looked back at the cashier to tell her to have a wonderful night and hopefully saw the difference she made,  took her smile with her even though she left a few behind, and walked out happily.

The cashier looked back at us with smiles in her eyes.

It’s just wonderful when people see each other-as people.

45 thoughts on “A Five Dollar Smile

  1. Oh, you made me cry and to remember that the last two days have been very very hard and the number of strangers that have given me known and unknown assistance has been amazing. I keep forgetting in between them, so they keep coming. Maybe I CAN do it?!


  2. What a sweet and thoughtful gift that was. It’s so wonderful that the customer took the time to not only make up for the impatient customers before, but to also make the cashier feel special and appreciated. Cashiers put up with a lot and they’re so often taken for granted and abused. This was a happy tearful read.


  3. Great things can happen when you see the whole world around you. What a great example of this in your writing today, Colleen. Thank your for your holiday present to us. This 10-minute slice of life could be made into a half-hour TV special somehow to teach the power of giving from the heart and mind to all. Bravo to the leaning-cart lady — who obviously was as tired as the imperinent shopper — for doing the little thing to make somebody’s day.


    • 🙂 Grinning very large down this way Mark. Thank you! The look on the cashier”s face would be worth the thirty minutes alone. Truly a moment of unexpected joy. Especially after the set up of “I want you to do me a favor”. Who knew where THAT was going!!! 🙂


  4. That’s so true. You know Colleen, what I really loved about this blog, besides a great message, was your character development and the way you set the women in relation to each other. I’ve never really seen that side of you, and I really like it.


  5. Reblogged this on Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life and commented:
    Having been behind a cash register for several years at this time of year and OMG during the New Year sales I have every sympathy with retail staff…Here is a lovely reminder that whilst we are in the middle of our own stress bubble we might just reach out and make a difference to the poor person who is serving us and do as this lady did, not necessarily with a 5 dollar smile but one that lightens the atmosphere… and please if you are standing in a queue and hear someone taking a pop at the sales staff smile at them and perhaps point them in the direction of a line that appears to be moving faster……even if it is not! lovely post


  6. I have no idea what store or business this was at but I hope it was a private business, I’m glad they had people in line. It’s also sad that private businesses are unable to hire more staff for one reason or another. But you have made some very good points all based on 5 bucks. I’d say it was a buck well spent.


  7. Every time someone does such a loving and special thing as this, it is like a ripple effect, it made you smile and others who may witness this as the night keeps on going for that worn out store clerk. I am so glad you told us this heart-warming story. This made my day, Colleen! It already was a good one, but now it is a fantastic day!


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