Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Paralyzed by Inaction

While at Costco this weekend, I was standing in line waiting to grab lunch for the family. There was an elderly gentleman in front of me who could barely walk and barely hear. Walter was his name.

Walter was trying to use a Costco rewards certificate to buy his lunch. The cashier explained that he could not use the certificate there and pointed him in the direction of the customer service kiosk. It was very, very busy and loud at Costco that day … Walter had a hard time hearing the clerk. The clerk repeatedly pointed and reiterated to Walter what he should do. Sweet, sweet Walter walked away.

I felt frustrated for him. Part of me wanted to take care of him and help him get this situation resolved. Even pay for his lunch. But, I did nothing.

It was my turn next. I placed my order and waited. While the clerk was gathering my items, I turned around and noticed the person at the customer service kiosk was pointing Walter to the long checkout lines. Again, it seemed to take Walter a minute to hear and understand where he needed to go, but off he went. He reminded me of the man from Disney’s movie “Up” as he hobbled away.

At this point, I felt very frustrated to see Walter being pointed, yet again, to another place in the store. I thought to myself, “You know, Mr. Costco Manager, I don’t care what your policies are – just take care of this man…have some compassion. Sometimes people have to come before policies.” I felt like I should go over there and help Walter, but, again, I did nothing. It was like I was paralyzed, just watching the situation unfold.

Moments later, a Costco manager walked by me. I was determined to do something, so I stopped him and politely explained the story to him. I said I just wanted him to know, because I thought the situation could have been handled better. He agreed, but that was that. It was over.

I realized, as I was talking to the Costco manager, that the person I was frustrated with was not him or the clerks that turned this man away – it was me. I should have stepped in. Two times the thought came to my mind, but I ignored it. I truly wish I would have stepped in to help this man before he walked away from that counter the first time. I wish I could have saved him all of those extra steps and the frustration he might have been feeling.

At this point, it’s obviously too late for that, but I have made a mental note for future instances to “act” instead of react. My “complaint” to the Costco manager was a reaction – it was not action.


  1. Tina,

    There isn't a person in this world that this doesn't happen to at some point in time. I have experienced similar circumstances and left the situation sick to my stomach of what I should have done. If it's any help I believe God puts us in positions during our lives to challenge ourselves. The challenges are not for Him to discover the areas we need to improve, but for Him to reveal to us the areas we need to improve. I pray everyday that God expose to me the areas of my life that need more of His attention. Do not feel bad about what you did not do. Feel blessed God would take the time to help you improve as a person. The book of James is one of the most direct and practical books in the Bible. I copied James 2:14 - 17, I hope this helps.

    What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled," without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.


  2. Beautifully written. I think we have all been guilty of failing to offer help that could have made someone's life a little easier. You have a great heart.
    Thanks for sharing so honestly.