I was in the store waiting for my turn in line. I saw them, a young couple, hugging each other tightly as they whispered and giggled. As they were next in line, the girlfriend walked away; leaving this clearly very nervous young man alone to speak to the clerk. He leaned down and whispered something and the clerk said what did you say and he said it again, a little louder and I heard him that time. She pointed to an area of the store. Looking at the aisle of many choices, he began picking up small boxes and reading instructions. I watched him for several minutes. When he turned around looking for his girlfriend; he caught my eye and I motioned for him to come to me. He came. Polite, cute and nervous.
I asked him if this (pointing to the box in his hand), is for him or his girlfriend. She came back and was standing clingingly by his side. She said it’s for me and I asked her if this is the right box. She said no. I said then I suggest the two of you go back to the clerk and ask for what you want. They looked embarrassed. I told them to not be embarrassed and that I am impressed with them. I added that whenever you need to ask a question, you need to stand up straight, open your mouth and speak to be heard. Further, I continued, if you get an answer you do not understand, ask it again. If after a few times you don’t get your answer ask someone else.
Walking hand in hand and trying to do the right thing without really having the tools to know how or what to ask for. I thought about our young children, teens or 20-somethings that lack the skillset required to navigate day to day in our non-communicative society. A society that has devolved into what we can see on our cell phones. They no longer have to look at you when they talk because they can talk to the screen and get an answer; they text, tweet, post, and watch other people live their lives.
As seasoned women and men of this society there are some things we know from life’s experiences that the school system cannot teach. This interaction recounted here, may not be something that everyone should do but for me I find that whenever I have to interact with young people; whether I know them or not, they see me as someone who sees them. As the adults we should be approachable. Even if they are shy, they must learn to speak with confidence and that requires practice. The young couple still with faces flush with embarrassment, smiled at me and I at them. They walked away from me hand-in-hand smiling and did as I suggested. I said nothing, feeling like a mother eagle who pushes her eaglet out the nest where they must fly.
When I left the store, I saw the couple had moved from the clerk to the consultation area and they were leaning in to talk to a different clerk. I smiled to myself; because I knew they got this. I consider moments with young people teaching moments. I also believe that the teacher is you. Teach to fly.
• Yolande Barial is a Tracy resident and mother. Her column appears monthly in the Tracy Press. Comments can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.