Nicole Brodeur, a writer for the Seattle Times newspaper, posted this article about a Costco employee who always went above and beyond his normal duties to make the customers’ days better than when they arrived at the store.
Fifty-six-year-old Tom Goessman contracted polio as a child and got around in a wheelchair. While working at the Seattle Costco store, he used a standing wheelchair while validating each customer’s receipt before they left the store. But that’s not all he did. He would make a game of guessing the amount spent just by looking at the goods in a customer’s cart; more often than not, he was right on the money. He would also draw pictures on the customer’s receipt if that customer was accompanied by a child, something fun for the kids to look forward to.
But all of a sudden, Tom was no longer at Costco’s Seattle location; customers were more than a little concerned. The Seattle Times has a column titled, Asked and Answered which provides an opportunity for people to contact the newspaper with queries that are on their mind. Turns out, many Seattle Costco customers took advantage of that column to discern the whereabouts of their beloved Tom. The person who became the highlight of their Costco warehouse shopping trips was nowhere to be found.
After some research, the newspaper discovered he had moved to Glendale, Arizona after being invited to visit that state by one of Costco’s customers, a man whose son is also paralyzed and who thrives in the dry, Arizona weather. You see, Tom gets life-threatening infections each year because of his polio; the damp, Seattle weather being an aggravating factor. Tom spent some time in Arizona two years in a row and was pleased to discover that his infections became a thing of the past. So what did he do? He relocated to Glendale, Arizona, and took on the same job he held in Seattle.
When columnist Nicole Brodeur wrote her original article about Tom a colleague of hers suggested, “If you want to restore your faith in humanity, read the readers’ comments.” Ms. Brodeur knew how much vitriol can be included in readers’ comments and so doubted her colleague’s assessment.
The comments under an online news story are a saloon I step into with one hand on my holster. One person makes a valid, thoughtful point, but then two stools down, someone pops off with a sexist or racist comment. Someone else weighs in on that and one scroll later, a full-on brawl has broken out, the subject of the story long forgotten.
That was not the case for those readers who responded to her article. The comments were filled with positive stories about their interactions with Tom during their Costco warehouse shopping expeditions; they missed him so much! The kindnesses that Tom extended to busy Costco shoppers elicited more kindness, revealed in the shoppers’ recollections of their brief times spent with him.
It’s been said that hate breeds hate but I’m convinced just the opposite is true. Kindness generating kindness is what I’ve experienced time and again in my life; even the smallest of kindnesses can douse the flames of hatred.
And in the world in which we’re currently living, don’t you think it’s about time hatred was put in its place, once and for all?