lsAs a preface, I write of an event at the large grocery store store located in Missouri. I will briefly describe an incident that occurred February 11th at approximately 1:20 PM while waiting for service at 20 items or less checkout lane. This event has haunted me since and I repeatedly ask, what should I have done?

From an outward perspective, the event is simplistic. Yet, my deeper emotion also indicates a potentially deeper theological, political and even a moral issue. So much so that my own moral obligation resonated throughout the night and into today.

Approximately 1:20 – 1:25 PM I entered the 20 items or less checkout lane, purchasing diet coke and one potato. A Middle Eastern woman wearing a brown Squere Hijab was in front and a store’s employee who I presume to be on break was behind me.

Most the woman’s item’s had been scanned before I entered the checkout line. Thus, only a few items remained. The cashier rang the customer’s final items and informed the woman of her charges. The woman proceeded to swipe her card through the Point of Sale system.

And nothing happened.

The customer looked at the cashier and said, “Nothing happened.

Looking over her shoulder, the cashier responded, “You obviously have no money left on your food stamp account or you entered the wrong PIN number.” Turning her head forward, she looked at me, briefly sighed and rolled her eyes.

And that was it. The heart of the entire event lasted approximately five seconds.

But what I saw in those eyes was complete contempt. For those five seconds, I saw total disdain, from business to customer, from human to human. More so, what bothered me all night was the fact I did nothing. And what should I, as a customer had done? While feeling an undying urge to standup for this ordinary woman, I sank into a darkness rarely experienced and said nothing.

Based upon a single and exceptional encounter, it’s strange how everyone crossed at that precise moment of time. More than likely, neither path will cross again. Still should each of us have taken a different approach? Could we?

I’m unsure if the cashier has ever been to any Middle East country, but I have. The terror, anguish and brutality Middle East women experience is horrendous. Maybe this specific customer overcome tremendous odds to make it here in America, only to be humiliated here at a St. Louis, MO grocery store. Then again, maybe this customer is second generation Middle Eastern woman who proudly honors her faith. Then again, maybe this customer was recognized by the cashier and the customer repeats this same process each week. I acknowledge each scenario as potentially valid.

As a business owner myself, I believe there is a teachable moment for each and everyone of us that five seconds can make a huge difference in the life of each and everyone of us.

But as a dedicated customer of this store, I remain haunted. I sit nearly 21 hours later and ask, “What should I have done?