Happy New Year! I hope this latest entry finds you well, as I pen this blog gazing at my Incredible Shrinking Christmas Tree. I guess I’m just not ready to dismantle it. Maybe my real fear is that I would in some small way be packing away the spirit of the Season. Something I’m determined to avoid, as this past year several encounters have me convinced more than ever, that the real gift of the Christmas and Holiday Season is belief…and to be mindful not to shelve it until next Christmas.
Her disposition seemed optimistic and hopeful, laced with a hint of relief…and she hadn’t even said a word. Sometimes the eyes set the tone for a conversation…that is…if we’re looking forward and willing to engage. God forbid we actually look each other in the eyes when we communicate in person. Try it. Most people look away within 2-3 seconds. (Wait, I think I just heard the sarcastic “humph” of legions of teenagers and twenty somethings as they briefly looked up from their phones.) Anyway…the eyes of another human being may just be the only remaining windows into our souls that still evade the latest Instagram or digital filter of your choice. Oh wait, nope. Snap Chat just turned me into a clown dog…or a zombie…hard to tell as there are SO many choices.
As I clumsily dropped my random collection of items on the counter, she smiled warmly and began to politely separate and arrange my provisions for proper scanning. She was deliberate, but not in a hurry. Diligent. Purposeful. But not at all restricted or robotic. She seemed to be enjoying it. How could I draw this inference? I was paying attention. There’s so much to see in the way a person moves. It’s very telling. I guess these days I’m equally as obsessed with HOW someone does something…as I am with WHAT they’re actually doing. Try THAT sometime…just watch the world around you. Watch how the world around you interacts, reacts or doesn’t react all. There’s so much more in those moments than a million strings of text. The collective interaction of our senses, combined with the gifts of reason and romance are the elements that make us special. I’m not sure how, but I could sense that this seemingly ordinary interaction was somehow going to be different. Now back to the random transaction involving my sundries.
The setting for this story is a cold, Wednesday evening in early December 2016…in the new Dollar General that opened in the Fall of this past year in Hebron, IL. Most of you have never heard of Hebron. They won the 1952 Illinois State Basketball Championship…and have the water tower to prove it. A community of proud and hard-working people…that like so many in small towns across the country, will reluctantly tell you that these days they feel somewhat forgotten. As she carefully placed my items in the bag, I casually expressed how nice it was to have a store a little closer to home, for those last minute items and other culinary conveniences. As some of you could benefit from a little context: Contrary to the name, Dollar General is NOT a “dollar” store. I know, I thought the same thing…until I walked in. It’s more like a convenience store that’s been working out at the gym. Streamlined, a bit thrifty…but has some bulk. Back to the story…
Her response to my comment was something I didn’t expect, and has stuck with me since before the holidays. She said, “Yeah. It’s been awhile since anybody actually made an investment out here. It means a lot to the people who live in and around the town. Shows that someone actually cares about what’s going on. Hopefully it’s a sign of good things to come.” As she looked up, smiled and thanked me for coming in…the gravity of her comment made me feel as if I were in slow motion. For those of you in areas where corporations fall over themselves to reinvent your economic landscape in an endless fight for every disposable dollar…please realize that that’s not the case for so many places today. Places like Hebron, as well as urban environments where conditions are even worse. Amazing how the socioeconomic and cultural differences between rural and urban communities find common ground in a shared desire to just have people BELIEVE in their worth…and in their potential.
Every year I choose a motto that encapsulates my approach to the coming year. Sometimes I share it…sometime I don’t. In 2017, I’m going to focus on Making Every Square Foot Matter. From relationships to remodeling, I’m going to look for opportunities in the smallest of places, and BELIEVE that they could be something more. And then look to make the necessary investments of time, talent and treasure to help them realize their potential. Sometimes we are so focused on making a big impact on THE world, that we lose sight of the fact that the greatest impact on OUR world, is made through a daily dedication to improving and investing in the very elements that comprise it. Especially the ones staring us right in the face.
So often we’re whipped into a frenzy about the concerns of the world at large, that we ignore and dismiss the direct impact we can have person to person, project to project and community to community…right now. After all, it seems to me the greatest of achievements and most fulfilling experiences are almost always a cumulative result of a million micro-moments that mattered. Moments that don’t seek to receive the most likes, reactions, comments or shares. I guess it’s fair to say in 2017, that I’m SO over the pictures of our meals on social media…and more interested in the ways we’re nourishing the world around us. From “Be the change you’d like to see in the world.” To “Do unto others as you would have done to you.” The message of the season is unambiguous and irrespective of your religious perspective, totally relevant…and surprisingly simple. Believe…and be your own agent of change. In your life and in your home…improving places and spaces one square foot at a time.
Well, as is the case with most of my trips to the market…I seem to have picked up something I didn’t expect. I hope you did too. Isn’t it amazing what you can find in the aisles of a convenience store these days?