Common Ground: We’re all in this world together

Store customers carrying a handful of quickie items lined up behind my two packed carts in the checkout line at a neighborhood dollar store.

Dollar stores are supposed to be places where folks can run in and run out with a couple of things. On that particular day, my cart was loaded with everything from cereal, toaster pastries, paper towels, animal food, lotion, a ton of toiletries and a dizzying bunch of those 75-percent-off clearance items.

I tried to let a few people get ahead of me, but the sole checkout clerk was already scanning my cart’s contents.

I turned to apologize to the people waiting and thought to myself, how many times have I stood in long checkout lines behind people carrying mountains of merchandise and wondered, why so much stuff?

Why couldn’t I have just gone to the big box store where everybody pushes overly packed carts and waits in line for half an hour? Too convenient here, I thought.

The man standing behind my cart did not complain, but instead helped me roll the second cart to my car. He was polite, patient and considerate during the wait, enough to do a good deed. I couldn’t thank him enough.

It made me think about the times when I have sighed and groaned behind other folks in grocery store lines. The key, I’ve learned, is to get involved. Help the struggling elderly lady unload her cart or roll it to her car for her. If a mother is having trouble consoling her child in the cookie aisle, do something to divert the child’s attention while the mother shops.

Make eye contact with other shoppers or just smile and say, “hello.” It’s infectious and it makes shopping feel much more fulfilling (between the grunts).

Even if one doesn’t work in the store and a customer mistakenly asks where something is located, do we bother to help or do we say in a defensive way, “I don’t work here.”

Going back to my experience at the dollar store, I made a second trip to a store that day after my son reminded me that he needed cough syrup and cough drops.

Lo and behold, as we reached the dollar store checkout line, a man unloaded a cart filled to the max with what seemed like everything in the store. He turned to me and apologized.

“It’s OK,” I told him. I related my experience at the other dollar store with him and we both laughed. It made the wait seem much more pleasant as the sales clerk scanned the contents in his cart.

Noticing that he was struggling with the door, my 9-year-old son opened the door for him.

The man thanked my son and I applauded him for helping out.

“How did that make you feel?” I asked my son during our ride home. “Good,” he told me.

Me, too.

Chante Dionne Warren is a freelance writer. She can be reached at