This morning I got up early to take a walk, as it had rained quite a bit the day before and left the air feeling fresh and crisp. Along the way, I stopped by the 99 cent store to pick up a calendar for next year (of course I still use paper calendars). There was only one checkout lane open, and a long line of people stood waiting to pay for their items. Soon a second cashier was called up, and a few people moved towards his lane. However, there wasn't a mad rush to get in line, and in fact, several people motioned to others to go ahead of them. It was so civil and relaxed and courteous, and I was thinking, this would never happen at Whole Foods (which happens to be right next door to the 99 cent store, attracting an entirely different customer base). In Whole Foods, most likely people would rush to a newly opened checkout lane, and certainly try to get there before others around them.
So as I got in line in the second lane at the 99 cent store, I unknowingly ended up between a mother and her adult son. The son said to me to go ahead, as I only had one item. And the mother motioned me forward, as she jokingly said "Merry Christmas!" Then, when I handed the cashier $2 for my calendar (which was $1.09), the son standing behind me handed the cashier a dime and said, "now you'll get a dollar back." I joked with him saying this was my second Christmas present, and he laughed. And my first thought was, wow, these two are a class act. And, second, what a different shopping experience this is than Whole Foods.
The reality is there is something about wealth that often changes people for the worse. In stores that cater to the upper crust, I so often feel people carrying an air of self-importance. Perhaps that is why they rush and are so often oblivious to those around them. Wealth tends to create this illusion that what I do is *important*, and more important than you, and that is why I'm in a hurry. But when you're around people of less means, there often seems to be more of a propensity towards kindness and having time for others around you. Obviously these are generalizations, but my 99 cent store experience was refreshing and left me feeling grateful to live in an area of mixed income. Wealth is not a bad thing in and of itself, but I came away thinking that it takes a wise person to handle it well and to monitor the effects it has on the soul.