This Thing Called Life

Closed Mouths

Every once in a while, I cross paths with someone with a brand of audacity that I observe with an odd combination of disdain and admiration. Yesterday was one of such occasions.

When I approached the checkout section at the grocery store, I joined a line of people at the only open register. I then watched a young man walk up and take in the scene with clear annoyance. He paced the checkout area in disbelief, willing another register to open. He reluctantly stepped into line behind me.

I glanced at him for a moment, noting that he had only one item and clearly wanted to get on with it. I looked ahead to the man in front of me who had only a handful of items. I looked down at my cart which held about 15 things. I considered letting the hurried man behind me go first, but there was something slightly entitled about his attitude that rubbed me the wrong way. He wasn’t the only person with places to be. Then I reasoned that since we were at Aldi where the cashier doesn’t even bag your groceries, my transaction would take all of three minutes, and therefore, he could wait. Yes, slightly petty.

Apparently he could not wait. When it was my turn to place my groceries on the conveyor belt, the rushed young man spoke up. “Excuse me, but I only have one item,” he said matter-of-factly.

That petty part of me wanted to fire back: “And?” But the nicer Sheryl looked at him with a relatively straight face.

“Do you mind if I go ahead of you?” he asked.

“Uhhhh.” He had put me on the spot. Just how petty did I want to be today?

Jesus won – doesn’t He always? – and I conceded. “Sure, go ahead.”

As the hurried guy rushed around me and I began to place my items on the belt, I pondered the situation. Was I simply put off by what seemed like a bad attitude when he joined the line, or was I annoyed by something deeper: his audacity to ask for something he was not entitled to?

Never in a million years would I ask a stranger in line to let me go ahead of them. The idea of it seemed pushy and impolite. If I was in a rush, I would simply hope they would be kind enough to suggest it. And if they did not, I would wait my turn.

In fact, I do not ask people for much in general.  Maybe I am trying not to bother them, maybe I do not want others to go out of their way for me, maybe I am independent to a fault, maybe I prefer someone do something because they want to rather than because I asked, or maybe I am too prideful to handle the disappointment and perceived embarrassment of no.

But what if I approached life differently? What if I was bold enough to ask people – friends, family, and strangers alike – for what I want and need, even if I thought they should have been considerate enough to pick up on it on their own? What if, knowing that they saw my need and ignored it, I called them out on it? What if I asked them to reconsider, refusing to be ignored? Sure, there is always a chance that they may say no. But generally speaking, might my daily interactions, my relationships, and even my life become less frustrating and more fulfilling if I simply accepted that closed mouths don’t get fed?

SheryLeigh is a woman who loves God, words, and people. She is currently living and loving as an author, blogger, poet, and spoken word artist in the Washington, D.C., area. A communicator by education and trade, SheryLeigh holds a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from Howard University and a Master of Arts in Management from Webster University.