What a Target Cashier Taught Me About Life
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I was reading a great article the other day on Daily Finance about a Walmart greeter and retirement. Well, lo and behold, it was written by John! The article was mainly showing how seeing an older gentleman greet people at Walmart was John’s wake up call to get serious about saving for retirement. I am also currently on a serious retirement saving kick, so I enjoyed his piece. To my surprise, I came into a similar situation just yesterday, but with a Target cashier.
I was picking up some milk for my son at Target over my lunch break when I headed toward the checkout lanes. To my surprise, most of the cashiers working during the day were much older than I expected. There is nothing wrong with this situation, but it just stood out to me.
I picked a lane and watched the cashier work through people’s items. He was very cordial and respectful. He engaged in conversation and seemed cheery. It was a good sight as you normally don’t see that many happy people checking out shoppers. As it was my turn to checkout, he engaged in light conversation. I had John’s article in the back of my mind, so I decided to be a little nosy. There was no one else in the lane, so I thought this would be my opportunity to ask him a few questions.
Life Throws Wrenches
My first question was along the lines of “do you like working at Target?” He simply responded: “It’s a job!” I thought that was an interesting response. Without trying to be an ass, I asked another question to see if he was working there for some extra income or if this was his job.
I was hoping for the first answer. I was hoping it was just something to give him some extra money and take up some of his time in retirement. He was definitely of retirement age. He lifted up his head from the cash register and told me he works there because he needs the money. That is when he opened up to me. We had a five minute conversation and he was really nice about it.
Come to find out, he has been working for most of his life. He didn’t have a job with a pension and never had enough money to save for retirement, though he tried. Whenever he would get some extra money, something would come up. Life would throw a wrench at him anytime he tried to get ahead.
The man also had some medical issues his insurance wouldn’t cover fully. This kept him down even more. He seemed like an honest and hard-working gentleman and I felt bad for his situation. This interaction allowed me to look deeply into my life and evaluate how I am trying to protect myself.
I’m in a different situation than this man. I have a job with a 401(k), plus I have a Roth IRA, emergency fund, and other investments. I also run a business on the side. My financial picture didn’t always look like this. I was deep in debt, overwhelmed by money, and no idea what I was going to do with my situation. My circumstances changed only when I realized I had to take control of my life and money. I had to pull myself up from my bootstraps and get moving.
Can We Be Fully Prepared?
Even though I feel much better about where I am at, this man and his story has made me do a double take. How can I be fully prepared for life’s wrenches? Yes, you can have insurance out of the wazoo, you can fund your savings account with enough liquid assets to buy a Ferrari, and you can invest until your brain explodes. All of these things are great and necessary.
As I thought about it more, I concluded that the only way we can really be prepared is by understanding how we react to life’s little wrenches. How do you deal with emergencies? Do you freak out, grab your bean cans, and hide in your bunker? Do you stand up, look the emergency in the face, and push forward?
Myself, I like to push forward. I like to face my issues and kick them to the curb as I work toward my goals. I know I will face obstacles and might even fall off the horse once or twice. That being said, I will never stay down.
The cashier from Target might not have handled his money in the best way or just never made enough. I can’t make the call since I only spoke with him for five minutes. What I do know is he is doing what he has to in order to make ends meet. He isn’t giving up, he isn’t crying about it. He is greeting each customer with a smile and treating them with respect. He respected me and I have respect for him. He showed me that no matter how hard life gets, you still have to get up and move forward.
What would you do to push forward when life is keeping you down? Would you give up when things got too bad? In what unexpected places have you encountered life lessons? What’s one of the best checkout line experiences you’ve had?
Photo courtesy of: Joris_Louwes