There's very little my five year old likes about running errands. But there are a few places that are less of a hassel to bring him to and Costco is one of them. You may think it's the plethora of tasty samples offered throughout the warehouse, or the giant sized swirled frozen yogurt that fuels his desire to trek through endless aisles. Nope. It's the employee that counts your items after you check out and draws a smiley face on the back of the receipt.
As soon as I fork over the $200 minimum payment I owe, my son snags the receipt before I even put away my couple of quarters in change. He excitedly holds the valuable slip of paper in both hands and starts asking if I think he'll get a nose with this smiley face, or if they'll draw hair, or if maybe they'll draw a little stick figure body. Every once in a while we'll get someone new at the door, and they count my items in the cart, sloppily draw the obligatory highlighted straight line and hand it right back.
Nothing sucks the wind out of his sails faster. I tend to tell him I'll draw the face on when we get to the car, but it's just not the same.
The other day we were at the end of a long day of errands. My son was getting antsy and wanted to go home. I made one last quick stop at Costco (although can it ever be quick?), and threw my child and half a dozen unneeded items in my cart. We finished checking out and stood in line once again to be counted. Even though my son was just about as crabby as I was, you could tell that he was looking forward to the smiley.
When we finally made it to the front of the line, he proudly handed over the receipt - the hurried employee drew the highlighted line and just handed it back to my dejected offspring. I could literally see his face drop. I leaned over and kind of whispered, "can you just put a little smiley on the back? It really means a lot to him." The aggravated women grabbed the receipt. Not mine, but the man behind me and muttered, "sorry, too long of a line and everyone behind you is waiting."
Seriously? It takes less than 10 seconds. If I wasn't addicted to the shopping mecca, I would have stormed out and screamed "I will NEVER return!" But I've learned from raising children that you shouldn't make threats that you have no intention of carrying out.
As a an adult I believe we have certain obligations that can change a child's view of the world. When you see a lemonade stand, stop and buy a glass. Even if you notice their grimy hands are submerged half-way into the pitcher attempting to stir and taking sips out of the big wooden spoon. You don't have to drink it, but you have to buy it. When you see a group of girl scouts selling cookies or boy scouts selling popcorn, buy something. Yes, even if it's marked up 200%. Buy something. If you can't afford it, then give them a dollar. They'll be so excited about the tip, they won't even remember how cheap you are for not buying a box of Thin Mints.
If you see a coin on the ground, don't dive in and grab it. Look around for the closest child and point it out to them so they can then flip it over in their fingers a thousand times and believe they're the luckiest person alive. If you're at a festival, parade or other public event and they're tossing give-aways to the crowd, hand yours to the kid next to you. Everyone loves something free no matter how old you are, but you'll forget about it an hour after the event. That child will remember the treasure for weeks to come.
We really can make a big impact, and it takes very little time and effort. Just because it means nothing to you, think about it for a little while because your actions or inactions often mean a great deal to an impressionable child.
So a message to the Costco thief checker: next time, get out of your own grumpy world and just draw the damn smiley face on the receipt.