When I was in high school and college, I worked in a grocery store as a checker. I met a lot of people during those 8 years and it allowed me a deep schooling on people. I saw all walks of life, from my “regular” customers, to the homeless and poor who came in with dirty change and recycled can money. I got to know people who were on welfare, I met people who drove nice cars, and I got to flirt with the cute firemen. I talked with old people, young people, pregnant ladies, step-parents, single parents, high school drop outs, con artists… you name it. It was a wonderful time of life, filled with a lot of growth and contemplation.
I learned that if you look into the eyes of people, you can read their story. I saw a lot of worry and hurt, I saw insecurities, walls put up, anger, embarrassment, and sadness. I saw joy, and light-heartedness, and enthusiasm for life. I saw regrets, and stress, and loss. I saw beauty, even in the “unbeautiful”.
One young girl always stuck out in my mind… and still does even after all these years. This girl was older than I was by a few years, but she had never worked a day in her life. She became a box girl, and her job was to bag groceries and retrieve shopping carts from the parking lot. They assigned her to my check stand so I could train her. She was simply gorgeous physically! She had long, blond, perfectly curled hair. Her nails were always professionally manicured. Her makeup was lovely, and her figure looked like she just walked out of a magazine.
She has held a place in my memory, and I often reflect on her, because she taught me a great life lesson. She was a very “ugly” person inside. I often marveled at how someone who had such potential could be so unhappy and negative. Working with her, I quickly realized what the expression, “Beauty is Only Skin Deep” really meant. I don’t think one positive word ever came out of that girl’s mouth. She complained her whole shift, every shift. She did not try, she did not smile, she did not say anything kind to the customers, to me, or to anyone. She dragged her feet, she complained, she wore a frown, she was a mess. Why was she so unhappy? I tried to talk with her, but she was untouchable, totally unreachable. I felt sorry for her.
I often compared her to one of the homeless ladies who always came through my line. Her name was Flo, and she was well known for her smelly, dirty coins she placed on the counter to pay for canned beans and day-old-bread. She would reach into her sweaty bra (I know… YUCK) to get out her food stamps. All the other checkers were relieved when Flo would come through my line, so they wouldn’t have to smell her and interact with her. But… she was a blessing to me and a “teacher” of sorts. She always had a smile on her toothless, worn down face. She always had a nice word to say. She was grateful for what she had. She was happy that people in our store knew her name and treated her kindly. She, to me, was beautiful.
These two very different ladies taught me that TRUE beauty lies within!
From that point on, after meeting that girl I worked with and Flo, I became very aware of the insides of people; their heart and soul. I have met so many people who are “beautiful” by the public’s standards… who are not-so-beautiful inside. On the flip side, I have met so many people who are not so attractive physically, who are the most amazingly beautiful people! It really brought to life the saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover”… and unfortunately, I think we all do that.
I think that was the biggest life lesson I learned at that grocery store. I began to really get to know people and to look into their eyes, their soul, their history, and get to know them… not avoid them because they look different or disheveled, or “less than”. I learned that “beautiful” people also have pain, sadness, and baggage… and that we are not to judge them because of how they look. I was able to remove all stereo types. I was able to remove judgment. I was able to love.