There is a lot going on underneath that face of hers. And even though she doesn’t say it outright, I know she still misses her father, she feels like a burden on her sister.

This morning, I went to the gas station to get a newspaper, coffee, and lottery ticket. My bloodhound, Thelma Lou—poster child for moderate hyperactivity disorder—usually goes with me.

The way our morning routine usually works is simple: I buy a newspaper, maybe some powdered donuts; she steals my donuts, and eats my newspaper.

But this morning, when I walked into the gas station, something was wrong. Before I even got to the donuts, I could tell the air was tense.

The scene was this:

The cashier behind the counter was frazzled. She obviously did not know how to use the computerized cash register.

A customer at the counter was aggravated with her. There were five customers in line. They were all displaying universal gestures of annoyance.

Clearing throats. Folding arms. Tapping feet. The woman in front of me glanced at her watch. One man sighed hard enough to knock over a circus tent.

“Not-niceness.” That’s what we’re dealing with here. And it’s running rampant in today’s world.

The customers were growing not-nicer by the minute. Finally, a man slammed his change on the counter. Another man mumbled a cuss word before storming out.

One woman shook her head and said, “Learn how to do your JOB, sweetie.”

When I got to the cashier she was too overwhelmed to say anything. Who can blame her? It’s not every day five customers behave like walking-talking jack mules.

She was a woman who looked older than she was. Her hair was blonde. She had tattoos on her arms, and on her hands.

“People can certainly be mean,” I remarked.

“Yeah,” she said. Then, she sort of broke down. She placed her head in her hands.

“I just CAN’T figure out this computer,” she said. “I ain’t stupid, I know how to do stuff, but this thing’s acting weird.”

So, I made conversation.

This is what my mother taught me to do during uncomfortable situations. My mother believed in talking so much that others didn’t have to.

I inherited my chatty mouth from Mama.

And I learned a little about this cashier. She’s from Ohio. She moved to Florida to be close to her sister after her father died from brain cancer.

It was hell on earth, being her father’s caregiver. It was even worse after he died. She had no family left in her hometown.

So, she crammed her children into a car and left for Florida. She had nothing but car problems along the way. She broke down twice, and burnt up her savings getting into this state.

She applied for jobs and finally landed at this one. She also has other jobs. She works on a painting crew. She cleans pools.

Her oldest child has a mild form of autism. She and her boys live in a house with her sister’s family. Eight people live under one roof, altogether. Eight.

There is a lot going on underneath that face of hers. And even though she doesn’t say it outright, I know she still misses her father, she feels like a burden on her sister.

I also know she is running low on sleep, and I know that—thanks to the miracles of technology—today she feels like a complete moron.

I left my cash on the counter, and exited with powdered donuts, coffee, and a newspaper. But I’ve been thinking about her all day.

I suppose I wish I could rewind this morning and start it over for her. I wish I could paint her day bright gold, and tell her everything is going to be okay—even when it doesn’t seem like it.

But I can’t do that. All I can do is write a few hundred words and hope she sees them. And if, by chance, one of those annoyed customers reads this, I’d like to say one more thing:

I hope you have a perfect life, friend. I hope you have everything you need to be happy. Big things, small things, family, and friends.

Because one day, you’re going to have a bad day. One day, you’re going to feel like you might not make it.

You’ll feel lost in your own life; you’ll feel sad; and overwhelmed; and unsure; and incompetent; and worried; and weak; and tired; and afraid; and overlooked; and foolish. When that day comes, I sincerely hope that someone is nice to you.

Wherever you are. Whoever you are. However important you might be…

Be nice.

52 comments

  1. Susan Self - August 28, 2018 5:53 am

    Yes. Mama said “treat people like you want people to treat you”. Put some one else’s shoes on and go for a walk.

    Reply
  2. Pamela McEachern - August 28, 2018 6:16 am

    None of us and I do believe NONE of us knows what someone may be going through. I am trying very hard to be patient and give that thought a try when I am in that kind of situation. Let’s try not to add bad behavior to anyone’s day. Anger is ugly.

    Peace and Love from Birmingham

    Reply
  3. MMM - August 28, 2018 7:00 am

    AGREED….nice is free spend it EVERYWHERE!! Try to remember in your “I don’t have time for this” day that a kind word might be all it takes to improve both the cashier’s day AND maybe your day too!! Be NICE AND BE KIND….won’t cost a cent and you could leave feeling like you won the lotto!

    Reply
  4. Ann - August 28, 2018 8:20 am

    So sad; so true. If only we could walk a mile in the shoes of the troubled, we’d all be a lot nicer.

    Reply
  5. Toni Tucker Locke - August 28, 2018 9:18 am

    Thanks, Sean. We all need to remember to be nice. Be kind. We’re all only here for just a little while.

    Reply
  6. Kelly - August 28, 2018 10:17 am

    Nice, such a simple but powerful way to be. Thank you, Sean. Being kind to that cashier may have made that darned cash register start working like it was supposed to!

    Reply
  7. Camille Atkins - August 28, 2018 10:18 am

    Kindness Matters

    Reply
  8. Sandi in FL. - August 28, 2018 10:31 am

    We should all be kinder than necessary to everyone we encounter on this road called Life.

    Reply
  9. Penn Wells - August 28, 2018 10:34 am

    “If the only prayer you ever say in your life is ‘Thank you,’ that would suffice.” Meister Eckhart

    Reply
  10. Connie Havard Ryland - August 28, 2018 11:02 am

    The world would certainly be a better place if everyone could just be nice. You never know what someone else is going through, or how much a little kindness could help. Love and hugs.

    Reply
  11. Wendy Smith - August 28, 2018 11:23 am

    We all need more niceness in our day to day routines
    . That cashier was blessed by the mere fact you took time to listen and care about her. We also need more Sean’s in our world. Thank you.

    Reply
  12. Connie - August 28, 2018 11:26 am

    Amen, we all could use a little niceness reminder every day! I sure do love reading your daily bread first thing every morning with my cup of coffee ☕️. I pray to be a better person…and I read your emails, they help remind me of the ways to accomplish this task. Many stories, same message. Have a blest day! 🎈

    Reply
  13. Trina V. - August 28, 2018 11:26 am

    Several years ago I was a couple of customers behind an elderly woman at Walmart. The cashier gave the lady her total, and then she began to count out her bills…and coins…one by one. It would have been so easy to become frustrated because I had already had a long, busy, trying day myself. Instead, I reminded myself that someday, that will be me.

    Reply
  14. Betty F. - August 28, 2018 11:30 am

    Your Momma done good!

    Reply
  15. Michael Guilday - August 28, 2018 11:30 am

    I needed to hear that Sean. I could have been one of those “mean” people in line. I’m 71 years of age, retired and life is wonderful but I act at times, like I’m late to a job interview. Needed to hear that. Thank you

    Reply
  16. LeAnne Martin - August 28, 2018 11:47 am

    Yes! If we all slow down a little and really see what’s in front of us, we can make life a little better for those around us.

    Reply
  17. Anita Dewberry Ryan - August 28, 2018 12:28 pm

    Thanks you for this beautiful article. Somehow, you seem to see people’s hearts. I have been on the side of feeling completely incompetent when things wouldn’t work and I’ve been on the side of being impatient. You always seem to see right to the heart and that always touches me and convicts my heart about how I deal with people.

    Reply
  18. janiesjottings - August 28, 2018 12:29 pm

    My husband and I always do our best to treat others the way we want to be treated. He worked for 23 years as a cashier in a convenience store and he has dealt with people who cursed him for saying “have a good day.” To those of us who are of a certain age and raised in the south saying “yes ma’am & no ma’am and yes sir & no sir” is good manners and a sign of respect. He has been cursed at and made fun of for saying those things. It just amazes me that people think they are entitled to ruin someone else’s day when it’s just as easy to be nice. I really hope those rude people read your story today.

    Reply
  19. Joann - August 28, 2018 12:30 pm

    Kindness is the key & oh how I wish people would start being kind again – it is so needed by our society!

    Reply
  20. Liz Watkins - August 28, 2018 12:38 pm

    You did so much for her! You listened to her with an empathetic ear! You were kind, nice and patient.
    God Bless you and God Bless the lady working in the store!
    Love your blogs!
    Liz Watkins

    Reply
  21. Judy - August 28, 2018 12:43 pm

    “It is so cool to be kind” is a great motto. A reminder for me, as a Christian, is that I will never look into the eyes of someone that God doesn’t love as just much as He loves me.

    Reply
    • Deborah - August 28, 2018 2:07 pm

      wow! I never thought of it that way.

      Reply
  22. Jo Ann - August 28, 2018 12:57 pm

    Thank you, again, Sean. Thanks for being a friendly face for that unfortunate woman. She’s doing the best she can at that moment. We get in such a hurry sometimes, with our minds going a mile a minute, focused on what we have to do next. Hard to remember, it doesn’t take long just to be nice to another person. Take a deep breath, slow down, concentrate & be thankful for the moment-be nice.

    Reply
  23. Sandra Smith - August 28, 2018 1:18 pm

    AMEN !!! ❤

    Reply
  24. Patricia A Schmaltz - August 28, 2018 1:34 pm

    Sean, I don’t know why that seems so hard for some people: be nice. Maybe they have insecurity issues, and taking it out on someone else makes them feel better. I don’t think mean people feel better. I think it makes them feel worse! So I feel sorry for mean people, as they are making their own situation worse. When I see a person having a bad day…. or just someone who needs a kindness hug, I try to do anything to make them smile. Sometimes all it takes is a smile and a direct look into their eyes. Bless you for making all of us smile.

    Reply
  25. Edna B. - August 28, 2018 1:55 pm

    Thank you for this story. Most all of us could learn a lesson here. Being kind doesn’t cost us anything. But it sure can make a big difference in someone else’s life. You have a wonderful day, hugs, Edna B.

    Reply
  26. steve norman - August 28, 2018 2:14 pm

    AMEN!

    Reply
  27. terristerling - August 28, 2018 2:23 pm

    Thank you Sean. We all need to remember this every. single. day. Wherever we go, whatever happens, when WE are in a bad mood and things aren’t going our way. Slow down, take a breath, be kind.

    Reply
  28. Jan - August 28, 2018 2:25 pm

    So true, Sean! Many people are so tied in knots about their own lives, they can’t see anyone else or their needs. So sad, so selfish and not helpful to themselves or anyone else. I am sitting in the beach for the first time in a year. Everyone needs a day just sitting on the beach, watching and listening to the ocean. The majesty and beauty of God’s creation can soothe the soul like nothing else!

    Reply
  29. Cathi - August 28, 2018 2:41 pm

    Thank you Sean! People in today’s world have rude & hair-triggered offended down pat but have totally forgotten nice & understanding. I hope your day is wonderful!

    Reply
  30. Roxanne - August 28, 2018 2:55 pm

    Nice is a little thing that matters a whole lot. I am dyed-in-the-wool southern and can still hear the ring of “Be sweet.” or “Don’t be ugly.” in my ears.

    Reply
  31. Darrell Dame - August 28, 2018 3:08 pm

    I read them all , you make us aware of others and their problems. We are selfish and are only aware of our own problems. You make us think.

    Reply
  32. Susan, Cartersville Ga - August 28, 2018 3:11 pm

    God bless her sweet heart, and God bless yours Sean for showing her kindness. 💕

    Reply
  33. Susan Swiderski - August 28, 2018 3:48 pm

    Amen. We all have tremendous power here. We can either ease another person’s heavy burden or we can add to it. It doesn’t cost a thing to be kind, and a smile and a kind word can make all the difference in the world.

    Reply
  34. Gordon - August 28, 2018 4:05 pm

    AMEN – Be nice!

    Reply
  35. Laura - August 28, 2018 4:20 pm

    Boy, did I need this today! I am feeling all those things: lost, sad, overwhelmed, tired, afraid, weak, worried, overlooked, as well as unappreciated, and ALONE. Yesterday, I was the person who was aggravated, impatient and maybe even rude, trying to resolve a billing error by a doctor’s (Mother’s) billing office. I did apologize at the end of the conversation I was finally able to have after hours of calls forwarded, messages left, etc. I felt very justified at being irritated until today, when everything turned around and all the feelings you described enveloped me. It is always good to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Sean, you do such a great job doing just that! Thank you for being you!

    Reply
  36. Jack Quanstrum - August 28, 2018 4:21 pm

    Words of wisdom from your story Sean! Thank you for being nice and sharing this story. Being nice is probably the greatest single thing we all can do today to make this a good day for anyone and everyone!

    Reply
  37. Mary Lee Morris - August 28, 2018 4:43 pm

    I love this one. Everyone everywhere should be forced to read this everyday. I try to be nice, because I know how it feels when someone isn’t nice to me. When I see someone in a store who looks like they may have lost their best friend, I always smile and say HI and compliment them on something. I watch the transformation and wonder why more people don’t do the same. It costs nothing and gives so much. I’ve never had anyone, male or female respond in a negative way. Many get deer -in-the-headlights-eyes at first, but usually smile, at least, back at me. AND if I run into them again, they usually act like they just ran into an old friend. Everyone should try it. Makes shopping lots more fun.

    Reply
  38. Bobbie - August 28, 2018 5:13 pm

    Amen, Sean, Amen!!

    Reply
  39. Beverly Pennell - August 28, 2018 6:01 pm

    Six years ago my Daddy would not leave my Momma’s side at Hospice. One afternoon late he decided he needed to go home for something. Home was five minutes away. No sooner had he left than the nurses told us that someone had better go get him; she was slipping away. I tore out of there to get him – he just HAD to put the trash out, of all things. I grabbed him and threw him in the car and explained things as we drove back. Cars would just NOT get out of my way; I drove faster than the law allowed. He made it back just in time to kiss his sweetheart of 67 years “good-bye and see you later.”

    Now when cars honk or go flying by me, no road rage here. I think, “Someone is trying to get to their sweetheart to tell them good-bye and see you later.”

    Reply
  40. Ruth in AL - August 28, 2018 6:27 pm

    We have discussed how much ruder our world is becoming lately. Being nice was a part of our Sunday School lesson last Sunday. People should not have to be told to be nice but it is not being taught at home and it seems to be more and more prevalent. We have especially noticed drivers today who go no where near the speed limit and act as if you are wrong for doing so. Laws do not pertain to them. This week is was a $500 pair of glasses that don’t fit correctly but will not be fixed by the seller. Once sold, too bad. Customer satisfaction does not matter. I am glad I’m old, and I will continue being nice to everyone. That is the way I was taught!

    Reply
  41. Kim Early - August 28, 2018 6:28 pm

    Being nice takes no more time or effort than being short and rude. Just be nice people. It’s so simple.

    Reply
  42. Shelton Armour - August 28, 2018 6:50 pm

    This nation could use a big ol’ case of being nice to each other. People can’t hear me when I fuss at them in my car for their driving habits (which don’t suit mine-so it’s all on me) but this column will give me something to remember to be nicer. Thanks.

    Reply
    • Roger. H. - August 28, 2018 8:11 pm

      As my Momma used to say; “It is nice to be important, but it is more important to be nice”. Thank you Momma!

      Reply
  43. Travis pearson - August 28, 2018 10:18 pm

    Great observation and story. We need more compassion in the world today. We southern folks know and remember struggles. We should all try to help a fellow human being. We’re not all the fortunate ones!
    LIFEs’ a struggle and in the end, we’re all the same! Dead and forgotten 😘

    Reply
  44. Jody - August 29, 2018 1:16 am

    When we extend courtesy and concern to others we are reflecting the best of our nature.

    Reply
  45. Patricia Gibson - August 29, 2018 2:16 am

    Amen!

    Reply
  46. Michael Hawke - August 29, 2018 2:21 am

    You are gift to us all.

    Reply
  47. 8t2p789 - August 29, 2018 3:09 am

    You are a good soul. May God bless you and your dog!

    Reply
  48. Rita Barker - August 29, 2018 3:29 am

    We must have the same Mama…

    People don’t take time to observe the soul that is standing and often struggling right in front of them…

    I am impatient with impatience…

    Your consideration and care for this woman is rare in this atmosphere…

    Consider yourself tenderly hugged and admired…

    Reply
  49. Janet Mary Lee - August 29, 2018 9:31 pm

    As another great writer (like yourself) said. Everything important we learned in kindergarten….Being kind was one of those things. You are something else, Shawn!! Just a Blessing!

    Reply
  50. LARRY WALL - September 4, 2018 4:46 pm

    Amen to those last lines. So right, Brother Sean.

    Reply

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