There’s a little convenience store that I frequent up the street from my house. I have spoken with the same attendant on several occasions — a kind young woman who looks like she’s lived longer than her twenty-something years. She’s a hard worker and manages the long, demanding lines very well. When she isn’t too busy, I chat with her, ask her how her day is going. Something that sticks out most about her is how her blue eyes usually glisten like she is just on the verge of tears, like something is always just about to spill over.
One day it did.
A couple of months ago, I came into the shop to find her at the cash register, tending to customers as usual, but exerting extra effort in choking back tears that had already begun to wet her face.
I waited until the line died down and when I made it up to the register I asked her what was wrong.
“I just found out my father died,” she whispered.
I was stunned.
“I got a phone call. I haven’t seen him in a while. He lives a long way off. We didn’t really have a close relationship. But, I want to be at the funeral, and my manager is saying they might not be able to give me the days off I need to make the trip.”
She broke and tears flowed.
Words were not enough. Though I had been strictly erring on the side of caution in all of my comings and goings, her need for contact surpassed proper boundaries. I reached over, took her hand, and gently squeezed — no gloves.
There was brief tension at the surprise of my gesture, but then a release and more tears. It lasted seconds, more customers were coming and she had to plow through her shift. But she was left lighter, I could tell, and so was I.
Needs are very often presented that require sacrifice to see them met. What looks like sacrifice to one may not seem like a sacrifice to another. Oftentimes the person on the receiving end is unaware of their need, and the giver is challenged by fear to make the move. But sometimes erring on the side of reaching rather than on the side of caution produces a greater reward.
Love requires sacrifice. We contend with huge amounts of fear, insecurities, and doubt as we dare to make our way past the guard rails and touch what’s just beyond the wall.
When we express, whether through affections across the distance during this pandemic, or through touch to our loved ones who are close by, we are giving something of ourselves that we could have kept instead.
It is no small thing. It’s a sacred act, this exchange.
This is the stuff that moves mountains.
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” — Maya Angelou