The Handshake

 

BY: V.J. Smith

 

A story from The Richest Man in Town

It's amazing what can happen just by paying attention. Besides, I never thought I would have a life-changing experience at Wal-Mart.

I don't remember the exact date I met Marty for the first time. Up to that moment, nothing that day seemed particularly important- certainly not what brought me to the store in the first place. Like a lot of people who want to get through a checkout line, my thoughts were on speed, nothing more. The line I was standing in wasn't moving as quickly as I wanted, and I glanced toward the cashier.

There stood an affable-looking man in his seventies. Slightly stooped and of average build, he wore glasses and a nice smile. I thought, well, he's an old guy and it probably takes him a little longer to get the chores done.

For the next few minutes I watched him. He greeted every customer before he began scanning the items they were purchasing. Sure, his words were the usual, "How's it going?" But he did something different-he actually listened to people. Then he would respond to what they had said and engage them in brief conversation.

I thought it was odd, but I guess I had grown accustomed to people asking me how I was doing simply out of a robotic conversational habit. After a while, you don't give any thought to the question and just mumble something back. I could say, "I just found out I have six months to live," and someone would reply, "Have a great day!"

This old cashier had my attention. He seemed genuine about wanting to know how people were feeling. Meanwhile, the high-tech cash register rang up their purchases and he announced what they owed. Customers handed money to him, he punched the appropriate keys, the cash drawer popped open, and he counted out their change.

Then magic happened.

He placed the change in his left hand, walked around the counter to the customer, and extended his right hand in an act of friendship.

As their hands met, the old cashier looked the customers in the eyes.

"I sure want to thank you for shopping here today," he told them. "You have a great day. Bye-bye."

The looks on the faces of the customers were priceless. There were smiles and some sheepish grins. All had been touched by his simple gesture-and in a place they never expected.

Some customers would walk away, pause for a moment, and look back at the old cashier, now busy with the next customer. It was obvious they couldn't quite comprehend what had just happened. They would gather their things and walk out the door, smiling.

Now it was my turn. As expected, he asked me how I was doing. I told him I was having a good day.

"That's good," he said. "I'm having a good day, too." I glanced down at the name tag on his red vest, the kind experienced Wal-Mart cashiers wore. It read, "Marty."

I said, "It looks like you enjoy your job, Marty."

He replied, "I love my job."

Marty told me how much I owed and I handed him some money. The next thing I knew he was standing beside me, offering his right hand and holding my change in his left hand. His kind eyes locked onto mine. Smiling, and with a firm handshake, he said, "I sure want to thank you for shopping here today. Have a great day. Bye-bye."

At that moment I wanted to take him home and feed him cookies. It was as if Sam Walton had come back from the dead and invaded this old guy's body.

I left the store, walked through the parking lot and got into my car. On the drive home I couldn't shake what had just happened. I had been in that store a hundred times and had never walked away feeling like that.

Who was that guy?

He did something different-he actually listened to people.

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