middot responsibility daily living thank you for being here today

thank you for being here today

Written by  rabbi benjamin ehrenfeld

art-groceries2“Thank you for being here today,” my mom would say to every cashier, bagger, customer service worker, etc. for as many years as I can remember. She would often get varying responses. Every now and then there would be a smile, or the person would strike up a conversation. There were even times that my mom would get a dirty look! When I was younger, I never really understood why my mom did it. Was she really thankful that particular person was bagging her groceries? Mostly I thought this couldn’t really be the case. She would even say it to the people who were rude. I didn’t get it.

My sophomore year in college I got a part-time job as a cashier/bagger at a local grocery store. A few months into it I found myself being the punching bag for a great many over-worked, over-tired, affection deprived New Englanders. I was called a racist for closing my lane right before a person of color was planning on using it. I was called an idiot for not bagging a lady’s groceries “properly.” I was generally treated as if many people were either indifferent to my being there (at best) or really wishing that I wasn’t. This was when I discovered why my mother thanks the people she does. Of course she expects workers to be manning checkout lanes, but it is worthwhile to thank the specific person who is providing an often thankless service. Maybe if more people did so, cashiers and baggers might even become thankful to be there too.

Gratitude rarely comes as consistently as it ought to. There is always the temptation to focus only on the estimation of the quality of what is being received, even at the expense of the effort exerted to give. I am not particularly grateful for long lines, the price of milk, malfunctioning registers, or any number of rich-white-people problems faced in grocery stores. However, I can say I am grateful for the person behind the counter who is doing a job that truly blesses so many people every day. With that, I would like to encourage all of us to be grateful for those people who may rarely get the thanks they deserve. It’s the least we can do for the God who gave us life itself.

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