A few weeks ago on a Friday evening I made a trip to our local Fred Meyer for some dessert items for my husband and I to enjoy after our little ones went down to bed. I grabbed my items and hurriedly made my way to the U-Scan. I just wanted to get home quickly; it was cold, wet, and I was tired from a long week. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed a wooden stand with several bouquets of flowers, cards, and a framed picture. It was the picture that made me stop.
The picture was of Tony. Truth be told, I don’t even know Tony’s last name. But I, along with everyone else in our community, know Tony. As I got closer, I realized that this was a memorial of sorts, as Tony had unexpectedly passed away two nights earlier. I was unprepared for the emotion of sadness and loss that washed over me. I brushed away a few tears and as I looked around me there were several others that had stopped as well. The surprise and sadness were evident on each face; tears glistened in many eyes.
You see, Tony was a checker that made a lasting impression on all of his customers. Tony’s line was generally the longest, not because he was slow, but because his customers would choose him, as he showed genuine interest in each individual that passed through his line. People wouldn’t answer with a flippant, “I’m fine” when Tony asked how they were, rather they shared personally from their hearts. Why? Because Tony truly cared about each person he came across, and it showed. The compassion in his eyes shone through, and his encouraging words often brightened one’s day. He remembered names, circumstances, and had a great sense of humor. I remember driving one day near Fred Meyer and my 4-year-old daughter looked out the window and said, “Look Mom, it’s Tony!” Yes, even she knew and remembered his name. And sure enough, it was Tony, walking to work, with that ever-present smile on his face, even in the cold, rainy weather.
I felt compelled to write about Tony this month. I found myself pondering why his death impacted me so much, even though I did not know him “personally”. Then it hit me. It impacted me so much because his life impacted me in a way that I did not even realize. He was a bright spot in a sometimes harried and stressful day. He made you feel like there was at least one person that day who was generally interested in you and your well-being.
It made me take a close and honest look at myself and ask, “Do I touch others that way? Do I take the time to be a light to those around me that I interact with that are not in my inner circle? Do others walk away feeling better about themselves or their circumstances after interacting with me?”
When you really stop and think about it, we have so many encounters with others each day. Most of them are brief encounters, like going through the grocery line, making a deposit at the bank, or calling to inquiry about a bill. Brief in time, yes, but these interactions also hold the potential to pick someone up or drag them down. We can be a positive influence or add another layer of stress or self-doubt. We take for granted the power we hold to either be helpful, or hurtful. Even when we are feeling stressed or overwhelmed, we don’t have to inflict pain on others.
Tony chose to lift others up. I have challenged myself to be more aware and mindful of how I treat and talk to others in my daily encounters….not just family, friends, and clients, but those I don’t even know. I may never even learn their name, but I can try to bring a smile to their face and be a bright spot in their day.
Rest in peace, Tony. You are greatly missed.