Teaching school is a great gig. I speak from experience: I’ve had other jobs that weren’t so nice. Where else, I ask you, can you get a job that requires you to work for only nine months, yet lets you draw a full year’s salary? I know some teachers complain about the extra hours they put in at home. You will not find me complaining about the hours. My other jobs often found me working at home, even during the weekends. I can’t tell you how many Labor Day or Fourth of July holidays were cut short because I had to travel to some place important for a meeting on the day after the holiday. My regular work week is 47 hours long, not counting commuting time, an improvement over some of my other jobs.
I enjoy the free time the job offers: two months off in the summer, two weeks at Christmas, a week for the midwinter break, a week for spring break, the two days for the fall break, and the holidays scattered throughout the year. My favorite season is summer, and it is glorious to have most of the summer off. The only problem I have is that the days off are set by the school calendar. I do not have vacation days that I can schedule when I wish during the school year. But that is a pretty small inconvenience, to be sure.
My days off tend to be hectic, as I try to fit in all the activities I never quite seem to find the time to do when school is in session. The recent Christmas break was no exception. I spent some of the break relaxing, but some of the break scurrying about, doing the things I ought to have done already. So it was that on the afternoon of New Year’s Eve, 2018, I found myself in a checkout line in Wal Mart.
I was purchasing a cleaning kit for a project. I had one item: a box, containing all the cleaning supplies. As per usual, only four of the 16 or so checkout lanes were open, and there were lines at each of them. Under normal circumstances I would have gone to the self-checkout scanners, but there was a very long line there. I finally found the shortest line, at the “20 Items or Less” register. There were only two sets of customers in front of me.
Immediately in front of me was an elderly lady. Given that I am in my mid 60s, by “elderly” I mean someone considerably older, perhaps someone in her late 70s, possibly her early 80s. In front of the elderly lady was a fairly young family, father and mother with two young children. And this young couple was having a little trouble paying for the food that seemed to be the only items in the shopping cart.
The young mother was trying a credit card when I arrived in line. It was declined. She tried another card. Again, declined. The two children were getting antsy. The father pulled out a card. Declined. The couple didn’t seem to know what to do.
I was getting angry. It is a rule of sorts that the line I choose to enter will eventually become the slowest moving line. I glanced over at the self-checkout scanners. The line was very short. Those folks were getting through the process fairly quickly. Why does this always happen to me?
By the time I turned back to look again at the young family, the elderly lady in front of me had opened her wallet and pulled out a $100 bill. She offered it to the lady working the cash register. And when the cash register attendant returned the change, the elderly lady shook her head, pointed to the young mother, and said “Give it to her.” The young mother tried to refuse, but the elderly lady wouldn’t have it. The grateful and embarrassed young family moved on.
When the young family had gone, I said to the elderly lady, “You really are a very kind person. Thank you.” She said, “I have three children. I know what the week after Christmas can be like.”
I do not know her name, but she is one of my fellow citizens. She is a good person trying to do the right thing as her conscience dictates.
I really don’t care what she thinks of the President, or the Congress, or the wall, or impeachment. None of that matters. She and people like her – not the politicians – make America great.