I love to people watch. Wherever I am, I tend to absorb as much of my surroundings as possible. I watch and wonder what made one person think the outfit they are wearing is “the outfit,” or I wonder what is causing another to smile or frown, or how their day is going by the expression on their face, etc. This wonderment changes as quickly as I look at another. Watching has also turn into some form of interaction.
For example, one Christmas, my mother and I were shopping and at the checkout an elderly man was in front of us with a very small purchase. When the cashier relayed the total cost, the elderly man handed his debit card to her. The cashier ran the card and it was declined. The cost was just around five dollars. The man looked at the cashier in puzzlement and asked if she could hold the item as he went out to the car and got another card from his wife. He began shuffling to the door. At the rate of his stride, it would have taken him until New Year’s to reach his car, get the card, and return. Seeing this little man do his best to pay for this purchase, I told the cashier to just add his purchase to mine. Five dollars was not going to put me into a debt spiral AND the elderly man could save his energy for another worthwhile effort. The cashier called out to the man and he returned to the counter to retrieve his item. In doing so, he looked me in the eyes, grasped my right hand and thanked me with such gratitude and appreciation and left the store.
Many years ago, I read a book by Mitch Albom called The Five People You Meet in Heaven. This was the second book by Mitch Albom that I had come across. As I was so impressed with the first, Tuesdays with Morrie, I knew I needed to read this one. As with Morrie, the book has just under 200 pages and was a very fast read. The book follows the life and death of a carnival maintenance man (Eddie) who is suddenly killed and sent to heaven… meeting 5 people who had a significant impact upon him while he was alive. However, Eddie has difficulty recalling some until they help him relive how they were acquainted. Not every encounter with each of these people (while alive) was positive; however, they were impactful to the person and now Eddie.
How often do we go through life interacting (whether knowingly or unknowingly) with people and contemplate how an action can alter another’s course in life? A simple smile, a glare, holding a door, cutting off someone in traffic, etc. As I read this book, my preconceived notion on the five people I would meet in heaven changed. I reflected on times that I was not nice to someone and how my actions may have affected them. During my bad behavior, it never crossed my mind that I may confront this person whether in life or in the afterlife AND if I did, what would I say? What if my action caused irreversible damage in some way. How will my interaction with the sweet elderly man at the store come around? As I’ve gotten older, I feel that this book has contributed to how I treat people today. I encourage you to read this book and if you have read it already, read it again… as I will. What is the worst thing that could happen? You might just stop yourself from behaving badly and realize that you will one day have to explain your actions… whether on earth or in heaven.