I went to a local bakery recently and greeted the woman behind the counter. She’s worked there for years, smiling casually as I’ve bought cakes for my daughter’s birthdays, rolls for family bar-b-ques, and bread for Thanksgiving. She’s always behind the counter or arranging delicious baked goods on nearby shelves – her blond and now graying hair pulled back into a hairnet. A stark white apron is always tied around her waist and looped around her neck, splattered with that day’s rainbow colored icing pattern,
While greeting her on this recent day, I wondered at just how little we know about people we see almost daily for years. While I’ve perceived that she’s spent her life in the bakery icing cakes, I know that isn’t true. I don’t know her name and she doesn’t know mine. Since her first pleasant “hello”, I‘ve gone through many life experiences personally and professionally.
Two daughters came into the world and grew into lovely adults. We visited the bakery regularly, starting with a weekly family doughnut day when they were in preschool. I now treasure occasional visits for a leisurely moment over coffee and a sweet roll when I’m lucky enough to get them for a snippet of time.
My career transitioned step to step up the corporate ladder followed by a tumble into retirement via brain tumor. The life and mind altering medical crisis of brain surgery and recovery has taken me through unimaginable changes. I now see the world and people differently.
I’ve visited that same bakery despite moves to several houses and cities. I’ve greeted pets into my life and cried as they slipped away. People have been welcomed into my live as wonderful new friends. I’ve seen, and cried, over friends who have transitioned out of my life as contact slowed from daily to weekly and then seldom or none as the cycle of life and friendship shifted under our feet.
Of course the lady in the bakery doesn’t know any of that. I know nothing about her. I wonder what she’s experienced in her life – even while icing cakes. Perhaps between cakes she takes exotic vacations or writes romance novels. She may have just nursed her mother through cancer. She may have lost a child to a tragedy. She may have an charmed life and family. Maybe she lives alone and only interacts with people at work.
Do you ever wonder what lies just under the covers of a smile? Let’s be kind to one another. Let’s care. . .