Just recently, a community in suburban Atlanta lost a man who had been employed at the local Target store for many years. One of Core Essential’s friends, April Bagwell, wrote about his impact for us. April Bagwell has a heart for kids. As a mom, former elementary and current middle school counselor, she sees their wins, their losses, their hurt, and their joy. She is quick to recognize the need for kids to be surrounded by values. By visible images. By lessons taught. And by people who exemplify them every day. April knows it makes a difference. Read why.
Last week, many people saw Facebook posts about the loss of an employee at the Flowery Branch Target and mourned with our community that lost “the happiest person I’ve ever met…” (For those of you from other parts of the country, a cashier at the FB Target recently passed away and his absence has taken Facebook by storm in our small community – people commenting condolences and memories and even raising money to fund his funeral. Many loved him and from what I continue to read, didn’t really know what an impact he had on them until now.) Comments regarding how he was always whistling, his infectious smile, the consistent kind and thoughtful words he spoke have captivated my mind all week long. One question continues to puzzle me.
How could this stranger who checked them out at Target periodically, universally affect so many different people?
Let’s be honest – we never had a deep conversation. We didn’t discuss the meaning of life or dive into philosophy, religion, politics or the like. We didn’t teach one another anything but simply had a mere friendly human-to-human social exchange.
My thoughts have come full circle, from staring my own mortality in the face and back to the question – why do we all care? I mean, why did this Target cashier make a profound impression on all of us that noticed he was missing? What I have come to conclude is that he met each of us right where we were. Isn’t that what the best teachers, friends, coworkers, family members, pastors, counselors, and spouses do? Meet us right where we are and speak the words that we uniquely need. You see, he wasn’t just ringing up your items and processing your payment. He noticed. He noticed if you looked like you had been working all day, that the kids in the cart were grating on your last nerve and you were hanging on by a tiny thread. He noticed when it was special occasion items you were purchasing or if the smile on your face brought about by his chipper whistling was all you needed from him that day. He noticed. And he reacted. Man…how often we float through life, through our day, our job, our classroom, our household and we don’t take time to notice.
We think influence and power and making a difference has to be done from a position of leadership. Someone who makes the big bucks and has hard decisions daily on their shoulders. Someone in the spotlight who says the right things and looks the part. This man was far more powerful than he knew – far more powerful in our own lives than we would be willing to admit until he was suddenly gone. The response to his passing says to me, we loved that he noticed. We felt known, seen, and accepted by this man. He was simply our cashier at Target guys…and yet he knew the key to leading well, to living fully, and loving people.
I couldn’t help but extend these thoughts to the walls of our classrooms and hallways. Our kids, the broken and searching kids and the normal struggling middle schoolers we all serve daily need to feel like someone notices. In the biggest way. When you boil every single issue that walks into our counseling offices down…they are all rooted in just wanting to be noticed. And apparently us grown ups can share in that desire since the man that noticed us every two weeks or so in the Target checkout line left such a lasting impression. It is at the core of humanity. In a season of development when students don’t know who the heck they are – and they give us so much insane material to notice…you sit in such a unique position to make them feel known, when they don’t have a clue who they really are. I mean – if the man in the checkout line can do it, we kind of have no excuse!