this report today on msnbc.com, Albertson's stores are eliminating self-checkout because they want "the opportunity to talk more with customers."
Author Leonard Sweet posted a link to the article on Facebook, commenting, "I've never used an ATM machine for this very reason."
Sweet is the chief contributor to sermons.com and he is practicing what he preaches. His posts on social media sites encourage interaction with and between readers. The news story and his remark about ATMs vs. flesh-and-blood tellers caused a surprising emotional reaction in me.
Not use ATMs? I live in Canada, a world leader in banking. More people per capita use bank debit cards and electronic banking here than in any other developed nation. I mentally argued against Sweet's example. I loathe going inside the bank. "I'm too busy to go stand in line and talk to a real person."
Then my thoughts did a mental catapult back in time to the principles taught in John Ortberg's book "An Ordinary Day with Jesus: Experiencing the Reality of God in Your Everyday Life." My choice of the words "principles taught" rather than "what I learned" was quite intentional. One thing I DID learn was how blindly I rushed through my day. How, before I chose a lane at a stop light, I analyzed the vehicles in front of me to assess which was more likely to take off at a faster speed when the light turned green. I also did similar analysis of retail store check-out lines, looking to see not only the quantity of the items in each person's cart already in line, but also checking the gender of the cashier (guys are usually faster) and whether they seemed focused on their task.
I blush now to think. I learned it, but I didn't change my habit.
I also remember one encounter with the Exit door clerk at Costco one busy Christmas shopping day. The normal custom is for a clerk to look briefly at my receipt, mark it and let me exit. The faster the better. Not this day.
This woman was close to my age. She greeted me with a cheery, "Good afternoon." I didn't look at her as I was balancing something in the cart. She didn't hand my receipt back. "Good afternoon," she repeated, more insistently. I looked up to meet her penetrating gaze and echoed the greeting back to her, only slightly more annoyed. She smiled as our eyes met and I felt rebuked as she commanded me to "Have a nice day" before she returned my receipt and let me pass. She was completely intentional about ensuring I acknowledged her existence and heard her admonition.
I was initially annoyed at her intrusion into my busy schedule. Didn't she realize how many people were lined up behind me? After stewing on it a while, I realized she caused me all of five seconds delay and I felt chagrin at my own lack of awareness.
And then there's 7-11. Every time I enter one, I am greeted with eye contact and a "Hello." The greeting helps customers feel that they have been seen. They are not invisible. Statistics show this acknowledgement of a customer's entrance has reduced shoplifting.
After reading about Albertson's, mulling over Leonard Sweet's example and remembering the assertive Costco clerk, I've realized, to my shame, I've behaved contrary to someone who claims to be a follower of Jesus Christ. I have habitually dehumanized the store staff I encounter while shopping. Sometimes my impatience would rise if they became a barrier to my goals. Instead of seeing every interaction as an opportunity to be Jesus in the lives of a lost and hurting human being for whom Christ died, I was viewing them as mere means to an end in pursuit of my agenda.
Quite an epiphany for an early Sunday morning.
Lord, open my eyes. Help me see every person I encounter as they are: a precious soul for whom you gave your life. A Devine appointment. An opportunity - no, a mandate - to share your love. A seed planted, a kindness given, a destiny changed.
Increase faith by increasing focus. Eternity is in this moment.