Got Milk?Living in Hawaii, we have some high costs. Our costs are as high as or higher than New York or Washington DC – notoriously expensive locations, according to several sources I found on line.

And purchases at a small convenience store or a corner grocer are understandably expensive no matter where you live. We pay for the “convenience” of that close-by location. We know that going in.

Recently, I had an emergency (I MUST have milk in my coffee!) and decided to pay for the convenience of a quick fix to my problem. With the coffee brewing, I grabbed an old t-shirt and whatever I could find for pants and ran damp fingers through my hair and hit the door. I dashed two blocks to my local gas station. Needless to say, I looked “unkempt”.

I also grabbed a $5 bill and left my wallet in my car not even thinking that I would need more money. I usually pay (sales pricing rule here) $5 plus change for a gallon of milk, so what could be the charge for half as much? I figured $4 plus change max. Of course, I could find no prices on the half gallon milk, but a 12oz plastic bottle just above was $2.29, so I figured I was safe to grab the half gallon.

But what if it was more than $5? As I head to the line at the counter, I figured I could just go grab the small insanely priced 12 oz. or go to my car and get more money for the half gallon if somehow the 5 dollars didn’t suffice. I had this all planned in my head as I joined the long line filled with the “off to work” crowd – their arms full of sticky pastries and spam musubi. ( )

However, the long line gave me time to think (remember, I have not as yet had any coffee!) and I had decided that if that milk was more than $5 then to heck with this entire place! How dare they, I thought!

I put the milk on the counter and handed over my $5 and said with a smile, “I hope this covers it. It’s all I have.” I kind of meant it as a joke; thinking it really couldn’t be more.

“It comes to $6.24”, she said with a big smile. I looked at the register in shock and as she put the milk into a paper bag, I reiterated, “All I have is $5.” And she kept smiling and said, “That’s okay, I’ve got it covered” as she whipped out her logo-covered manager’s card and swiped it through her terminal which apparently covered the rest of my bill.  And then she said, while beaming a huge smile, “Have a blessed day” and handed me my milk.

She did this with so much routine, so much simple grace that I knew she had done this many times in the past. And while I knew I had a wallet with more money just a few feet away in my parked car, I simple made the decision to accept her grace. Her generosity was a big teaching moment for me.

She judged me as needy. I had judged her workplace as greedy. We were both wrong.

But we both had a moment of “making it alright again” of accepting the simple premise that we cannot be rigid or judgmental. I could have been nasty or snarky, but I was (and always try to be) cheerful; albeit shocked when I heard the price. I could have been ungrateful and refused her generosity. I could have even been offended that she would assume I had no more money in the whole world and needed that help.

She could have given me a dirty look and said “next” and just dismissed me. I know now that she knew that $5 was not enough the minute I set down the milk and the money. She made a decision to be a good and caring person to a complete stranger and that is – let’s face it – not as common as we all wish it were.

So my takeaway is simple:

I am going to up my love levels. I say this all the time: people need more hugs – real or virtual hugs.  We need to feel and express real love and a real sense that we are not alone. You are not alone. I am not alone. We don’t need to act like we are or pretend that we want to be alone. We simply need to feel and believe we are safe to show our love to complete strangers.

We are all much more alike than different. We need to practice sharing our likenesses and making sure others feel our loving and selfless core beings.

We need to nurture and stay focused on our loving core so we can instantly be ready to swipe a card on someone’s behalf.

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