I wandered into Sur La Table for a lemon zester and stood at the check-out counter while the transaction was being completed. As I waited, a hulking figure emerged from the back room carrying a bag full of money. He was wearing a dark blue uniform and the brightest smile I have seen since my soon-to-be son-in-law caught his first glimpse of his bride walking down the aisle a couple of decades ago.
As he passed by, he looked me straight in the eye with a grin the size of Texas and wished me a cheery “Good morning.” How is it, I wonder, that just one beaming smile coupled with an enthusiastic, heartfelt “good morning” can leave me feeling so over-the-top-happy? What a zesty guy!
I had only one word for the encounter. “Wow,” I said. My gaze followed him out the door as he walked toward his armored truck. Reading my mind, the cashier glanced at me with a faraway look in her eye and a soft smile on her face. “I know,” she said. “I really look forward to Friday mornings when he comes in because I always feel so good when he’s here, and all day even after he leaves.”
The man had a palpable, larger-than-life presence that lit up the room and left me in a state of awe. In that one brief instant, I was reminded that we all carry a presence, and that what we carry within ourselves reaches out and touches those around us, for better or for worse. It made me stop for a moment and ask myself what it is that I am sending out to those around me, to the ones I love, and to strangers.
What about the people who zoom down the shoulder of the road and cut in the front of the line, or those who leave their dog’s droppings for other people to step in, or the folks whose empty Budweiser cans I pick up on my daily walks? What about the myriad of other small irritations that are available to confront my peace of mind every single day of my life? Are my thoughts and judgments polluting the air around me, and negatively impacting those unfortunate unsuspecting souls who happen to stand within close range? Worse, are they polluting my own inner space? Do I allow these small little annoyances to become volcanic in my mind? Or do I embrace them as part of a plan to grow up and get over it?
I’m not sure that I can possibly begin to imagine what it must be like to live within that man’s big heart. I can’t think of any cause greater than to spread kindness and goodwill just simply by being. But just for an instant, I’d sure like to be able to pop inside his skin and check it out for myself, to experience how it feels to reside within such an amazing presence. No, I can’t imagine it. But this much I do know. I want to be a zester just like him when I grow up. After all, I am the only one who can do something about how they will feel when I walk away, right?