Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Gold Stars For Grown Ups

Life gives you little reminders in funny ways.

Today I got one in a queue.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that people in queues do not want to be queuing. In fact I think it's safe to say that anyone who has ever stood in a queue has not been happy about it. This evening I was in my third queue of the day: after the Underground ticket line, the Post Office, I was now standing zombie-like in the supermarket. I only wanted some milk, and the shortest line had three people in it. As anyone would agree, that was THREE PEOPLE TOO MANY.

As I waited, the checkout lady seemed to operate in slow motion and my mind sunk deeper into a pit of impatience. I watched the checkout staff distract one another with conversation. Why did they have to chat? The man in front of me had a little girl and I watched as she played peekaboo with the checkout lady. I smiled, but in my mind I wondered how long this was going to go on for.

And then AT LAST the man took his change and was turning to leave, when the checkout lady asked the girl, 
"Have you been good?"

The little girl stopped to consider the question.

"Yes! I-I-I....I got a gold star!"

The checkout lady smiled at her. "Did you now?"

"Yes! I got.... three! Three stars."

The queue stared at the checkout lady, waiting, watching.

The father stared as his daughter wondering what to do.

At the same time the little girl stared at the checkout lady, waiting for a response to what she clearly felt were notable achievements.

And so the checkout lady said, "Goodness! Was that today?"

Proudly, the child replied, "Yes...  But also..."  

And she counted out on her little fingers, staring up at the ceiling as she worked it out.

"Monday.... and then... and then... and yesterday..... and...... and..... TODAY."

said the checkout lady, ready to wrap this up but not really knowing how.

The father looked nervously at the growing queue.
But everyone was looking at the little girl, who clearly had more to say on the matter.

"Cos.. cos... we get gold stars..." continued the girl, "but you have to be good!"

And so, the conversation reached its conclusion.
The relieved father led his daughter away, and everyone in the queue was smiling, looking a little dazed. Like they'd all experienced a moment of clarity.
The checkout lady gave me an apologetic smile as she scanned my milk.
"Well hey," I said to her, "One should always be proud of one's achievements."
"Oh yes, " she replied, "A gold star is a big deal at that age."

Then she added to herself, "I'm still waiting for mine!"

You know what?

We don't get gold stars anymore; nor do we give them out. That's because we're adults - we don't really need a sticker to acknowledge when we've done well. Or do we?
Unfortunately (being adults) we're all far too coy to shout about our achievements. 
That's kind of depressing, don't you think? Given we surely achieve a heck of a lot, being grown ups and all? We're so busy worrying, scowling, getting stressed, getting distracted, welling up with impatience in queues... what about the good stuff? What about that great feeling of accomplishment? The fact we are here! Doing what we do! Making life happen! Why do we forget about that?

Next time you do something you're proud of, freakin' well shout about it! TELL someone!
Even if it is the supermarket checkout lady.

Feel free to give yourself a gold star and shout about something you did that you're proud of in the comments. Anything at all! SHARE IT!
I'll go first.