Some Assembly Required

Sunday, May 15, 2011

A Real Courtesy Clerk

It wasn’t until it was over that I realized how it all must have looked to someone who didn’t know me! Hopefully, those who know me would know that what had seemed to happen didn’t really happen at all. My mother wouldn’t have believed it unless I was the one who told her, and then she would have said, “ You did what?! Well, Sandra!” If my daughters had seen what was going on, they would have been mortified! Then they would have laughed hysterically, relieved that I was out of town where no one would have known me (or whose Mother I am).

In retrospect, I have to admit it; let’s call it what it was—I was a “dumpster diver.” I’ve heard of people who do this, sometimes just to put food on the table or to put clothes on their back. And I’ve heard of people who do this, hoping to rescue something of value which might could be sold for cash or perhaps even cleaned up, re-done, re-purposed and then sold.

If you know me, you would know how unlikely that is: I don’t like to get stuff/junk under my nails or on my hands; I don’t particularly like to sweat; I can not stand foul odors, so becoming a dumpster diving diva is not to be expected of me, but it happened! Of course, it wasn’t really a dumpster—just a large trash can in front of Kroger’s in Hot Springs, AR. And I didn’t really “dive” into it—just sort of picked around in it. But it may as well have been a dumpster because it seemed huge at the time, and it was located front and center of the store in a very busy shopping area. If it hadn’t been for Dinah though, I would have had to do some heavy-duty digging through that garbage.

Back up a few hours. Earl (my husband), Daisy (his dog), and I were headed to the Ouachita State Park in Arkansas, pulling our small travel trailer for a few days R&R. We decided that to simplify (HA!) our trip, we would stop at the Kroger grocery store in Hot Springs to buy groceries before heading out to the park; that would eliminate the need for a return trip several hours later after having reached the park and set up the trailer. It was a good, simple plan—going to save us time and energy (Right!). And it was doing just that—until 15 minutes after leaving Kroger, when I realized that my glasses were missing, case and all. I had to have dropped them right in front of Kroger as we were loading groceries into the truck. But surely I would have heard them hit the concrete, wouldn’t I?

Then a horrible thought hit: the only other place they could be was--oh, no, please--not there! But it was a real possibility because just before I had gotten into the truck, I had taken a brown, paper grocery bag, wadded it up, and, yes, thrown it into the public trash can. My mind did not want to go there, and my hands definitely did not!

I explained the situation to my husband who, very patiently, volunteered to turn around and return to Kroger. Please remember that by that time, we were on a four-lane interstate highway on which the two lanes headed our way had been whittled down to one lane because of those infamous orange barrels (with no obvious work going on). And, oh, yes, it was 4:30pm—getting-off time; the traffic had slowed to a crawl. I could only imagine that the people headed home after a hard day’s work were not likely to be thrilled to let a truck pulling a travel trailer ease up to get off the next exit ramp which was probably a half mile away. So all the while berating myself for being such a dummy, I told my husband not to worry about it, and we continued on to the park.

As fate would have it and since the day was going so well anyway (Not!), we later ended up having to go back into town anyway to buy a water hose for the travel trailer. We figured that would be the perfect opportunity to re-visit Kroger. Just as I feared, there was no sign of the glasses case in front of the store where we had loaded groceries. I then went inside to the courtesy desk and explained my dilemma to Dinah (who turned out to be a real courtesy clerk) who scoured the office, to no avail. Hesitantly, I explained to her about the only other place that the glasses could be and asked if it would be okay for me to remove the garbage bag from the can and take it with me to be examined later—in a more private setting.

“Absolutely not!” she replied but in a compassionate voice. “I’ll do it.” With that, she told her co-worker that she would be back shortly and headed off to the “dumpster,” and before I could even get there, Dinah was bent over the trash can, digging as if for gold. I raced over to help and immediately saw the wadded up, brown, paper grocery bag I had deposited several hours earlier. I pulled it out and handed it to my husband. By this time, all I could see of Dinah was her back and the back of her head as she leaned farther into the smelly can. She was still digging, and just as she was pulling out the second bag to hand to me, my husband had the first one uncrumpled and, upon looking inside it, Eureka, found my glasses!

I was greatly relieved! I thanked Dinah profusely and apologized to her that my carelessness had caused her to have to dig around in the public trash. She very kindly smiled, said that it wasn’t the first time (Right!!) and then went back to her job as a real courtesy clerk.

I was reminded of several things that day: 1) That thing about, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”—(Matt. 7:12)—it still works! 2) Everything I do should be done to the best of my ability--even if it comes under the heading of “less-than-desirable.” (Colossians 3:23) 3) Going the extra mile is the right thing to do. Remember that guy, the good Samaritan? (Luke 10:30-35) 4) Not helping someone in need is not even an option; it is my responsibility. (Proverbs 3:27 ) 5) A good attitude while working costs me nothing but may be invaluable to those around me.—(Philippians 2:14)

So—if you ever happen to be on Hwy. 7N, going into Hot Springs, AR, and need to pick up some groceries, drop in at Kroger and ask for Dinah—a real courtesy clerk!


  1. I LOVE this story! I love it because it's not something that happens to you every day and plus it's just a great example of what potential people have to just be nice.

  2. Her trashing digging....sounds a lot like Jesus's foot washing. Sweet servanthood you'll never forget I'm sure.


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