Thursday, July 8, 2010

People Matters

I had a moment the other day at work that caught me by surprise. I was hard at work (well, sort of) when I had to stop what I was doing and serve some customers.

Now, due to the nature of my workplace, it's very natural to have golden oldies in my store. I've seen them all. Some are a pain in my day, others are pretty fun to dress up.

There's the ones who know what they want. They make a beeline for the the navy slacks and beige skivvys. Sometimes they head my way and ask if I've got any pants that sit a bit higher, because 'your pants are those hipsters'. I wasn't aware oldies knew what hipsters were.

There's the ones who aren't quite sure what they're after, but they know they need something. They know they want something warm and something with sleeves, because 'I don't like how my arms wobble'. Neither do I.

There's the ones who aren't quite as mobile as what they used to be, so they need something with elastic around the waist and zips down the front.

But then there's the ones who bother me the most. They bother me because they believe they're forgotten, they believe they're invisible. They're the ones who aren't empowered to make decisions anymore, whose children and grandchildren make the decisions about what they want. They're the ones who believe they are a burden on their family.

They're the ones who bother me the most, because they've already written themselves out of the pages of this world before they ending of their chapter, or worse still, that we as a society have written them out. They bother me because they make me sad.

So when I stopped what I was doing and served some customers, I realised what type of customers they were. They were in last category.

The mother would've been around 80 years old, a real golden oldie, her daughter around 50, a well-dressed woman with immaculate hair. They had laboured over the decision to buy a black long-sleeved top and a green cardigan for around 15 minutes. The mother had shuffled behind her daughter around the circumference of the store. And when it came time to purchase the items, they made their way to the counter, the daughter leading, the mother shadowing.

I greeted them both, yet only the daughter answered. The mother looked at me and put her head down. I asked the mother another question, yet the daughter answered for her. I wondered when it became okay to answer for another person.

I entered the items and stated the total price. The mother reached for her wallet and paid me, without saying a word. I counted the change back to her and put the receipt in the bag.

And then there was this look in her eyes.

Not a creepy look, or an angry look, but a look of intense sadness. It was a look of resigned inferiority. It was a look that conveyed so much in so little time.

This lady had probably been a dame in her day. She would've known how to dress to impress. She would've lived through a world war, seen friends and family go to battle and never return. She had raised a family, she had built a life. She still wore a wedding ring, so had remained faithful to the end.

This lady was a life. She wasn't a number or a $63.90 sale. She was a person, with her own attributes, achievements and experiences. She wasn't a shadow of better times, but she was a human life, living in this present time.

Somewhere along the line, I had forgotten that people matter. People aren't a statistic. They are people, humans, living and breathing testaments of God's love for us.

But I realised that this lady mattered. Although society may say that she's worth $160 a week of Centrelink pension payments, she's so much more than that. She's a person who matters.

She matters to God, and if He says she matters, then I know she does.