Life Lessons in Aisle 2

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Lessons in Aisle 2

Life dispenses its lessons in what seems like a random selection free-for-all.

One minute a 14-year-old dog is ushering epiphanies to our door, and the next we’re in a tear-induced submission over a song we overheard a toddler singing at the airport.

And while random they may be, incidental they are not. Each is crafted to deliver our intended message at a precise time and place within our existence – many times when we least expect their arrival.

One of my favorite life teachers was a small drugstore near the apartment where I lived in my late 20s. Nestled quietly between a busy supermarket and dry cleaners, it emitted a friendly Mayberry-like vibe amidst a ceaseless stream of coming and going.

As you graced the doors, a “ding ding” eagerly announced your arrival, and several retired clerks simultaneously joined the chimes in greeting you. Each emitted the love, tenderness and interest levels of your own grandparents.

Sure, their lines took a bit longer, but no one ever seemed to mind. In lieu of a scan gun, they’d punch away at a calculator, and a genuine cause for conversation was never far away. Some days it was a story about the importance of spring cleaning, and other mornings consisted of a quick, “Honey, make sure you start on your taxes soon. I know someone who can help you out if you need it.”

At the rear of the store was a small post office, the store’s hidden treasure. Forget a 20-minute line of impatient, sighing patrons. Most days, you’d walk right up to the counter. Each time, a clerk would suggest a cheaper way to send a package or how mailing it via one type of parcel versus another would get it there faster. They too, were happy to usher you into conversation. Ergo, I am now a semi-expert on gardening and Willie Nelson.

I was saddened the day I walked through the doors to see “Everything is 50 percent off!” signs – that usually only means one thing. Sure enough, I was informed their doors were closing in three weeks.

“We just can’t compete with the big chain stores popping up everywhere,” they shared with a defeated shrug.

Customers were coming in specifically to ask, “I heard you’re closing? Is that true?” They were equally disheartened to learn a bit of their local legacy was now a landmark of the past.

I’m a positive gal, but I couldn’t help but think, what a pity. This beloved store, staff and service was joining a nation of treasured tumbleweeds, all because the business model could have used a little tweaking and their needs more clearly defined to their customers. Had they increased their prices to stay competitive and explained the reasoning to their customer base, I truly believe they would have retained their shoppers. People didn’t shop there for the cheapest toothpaste or notebook paper – they loyally came for the ambiance, experience and relationships they shared with the store culture. In other words, they paid for a feeling – something you can’t find on a shelf or buy in bulk.

I suddenly saw how the beloved store had ceremoniously delivered a life lesson in personal worth: know it, and don’t be afraid to endorse it. While the store was busy trying to meet everyone else’s needs, they forgot to meet their own.

Many times, we expect people to just “get it” when it comes to the value of our time, services or even emotions. And if our society wasn’t on information overload, maybe they would. But the truth is people appreciate clarification and often are eager to support on behalf of that newfound insight.

If you work hard to provide others an experience or commodity they deserve, knowing your value deserves reciprocal respect and proper upkeep. Both require vocalization on our part. The saying, “If you don’t understand how to appreciate yourself and your worth, how do you expect others to?” really played out in a real way with the closing of our precious store.

Many such misconceptions occur at the intimidating line between being humble about our worth and downplaying it to the point of denial. When we’re humble, we’re unpretentiously thankful for our worth. We acknowledge it in a healthy way. We don’t hide it or shy away from it. We unapologetically accept the blessings of self-acceptance.

Be it in our careers or personal life, may we respect our self-worth enough to know (and verbalize) what our needs may be, in addition to affirming the positive and exclusive qualities we are happy to bring to the table.

And may we feel confident in loyally supporting the values that lie in the talents and personas of others, knowing life wants to sustain our treasured presence in return.

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