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  • Jennifer McClanahan-Flint

I Cried at Target

Updated: Apr 3


"Assume others are doing the best they can." – Brené Brown



I cried at Target this morning.


Like many people in our country, we were almost out of toilet paper. We've been making what feels like dangerous daily excursions to find some in our area. I knew that if we were going to find some, it would take a morning expedition. We don't usually shop at Target. Target is the kind of place that you walk out with 10x more stuff than you ever planned to buy, we don't need more stuff.


Today, as I approached the door of the Target in San Rafael and weighed whether or not I should take a cart, an employee was hanging up a sign. I asked the employee, Yesenia, if they had any toilet paper left. She looked at me a bit resigned and said, "I think we are out."


She explained that they had a small load this morning, so usually, the toilet paper supply lasts until 11:00 am. Still, because it was a small delivery, they had sold out by 9:00 am.


We discussed the best timing and strategy, and I told her that if they don't have toilet paper, I am not going to bother to come in the store. She paused and looked at me for a moment and then told me to come with her. I thought she was going to show me where the toilet paper was just to double-check. Instead, she led me to her register, went underneath it, and pulled out a twelve-roll pack of Charmin, my favorite brand. I was so stunned, and a bit confused, that it took a while before I understood that she was giving me her toilet paper. I thanked her profusely and moved on to see if I could find cleaning supplies.


Another employee was unpacking Method dish soap refills. At first, I thought it was hand soap, and when I realized it was dish soap, the employee kindly told me where I would find hand soap refills and what brands were available.


This Target also had groceries, so I stopped by to see if they had garlic and lemons. My daughter and I enjoy drinking lemon water, and we ran out of lemons this weekend. It wasn't essential that we go to the store for lemons, so I had been missing my morning routine. I rounded the corner, and there were mounds of lemons waiting to be taken.


Then I cried.


Chocked up, I asked another employee if they had garlic, and he said, "Yes, it is right here."


They had plenty of garlic.


Then I cried more, as he went back to work. I cried because, in one trip based on the care, kindness, and dependability of other people, my family had our needs met (I even brought home a bonus box of flushable wipes to help the TP last longer!).


As I left the store, I stopped to give Yesenia a teary heartfelt thank you. She told me she appreciated my kindness because most people are yelling at them due to limits the store has placed on the purchase of paper products. Then she said, "But we need to do it for people, people like you."


People are meeting our needs and aren't asking for anything more than their paychecks.


MJ and I hosted our Time to Reset webinar yesterday, and we talked about understanding what we need to show up and connect with other people. We discussed how we can show up and connect in this time of social distancing. We talked about the need to center humanity, our humanity and the humanity of others as we managed the stress of this time.


We didn't talk about kindness.


So, I encourage you to show up for other people. It is a kindness to show up and, if you can, do your job in whatever form that might be.


I had a dilemma about posting this article.


Melody and I had written an article about a month ago, and I had planned to post it today. It was about disrupting the expectation of comfort. It is a good article, but it is out of step with where we are right now. If I was going to send a note today, I had to write something without Melody's keen eye for editing and phrasing. I would have to write it, edit it, and send it myself – that's testing the limits of my writing skills.


Then my trip to Target reminded me how important it is to show up. To show up imperfectly is much more profound than my absence.


Everyone who helped me this morning at Target was a person of color, and most of them were Latinx. They were showing up and supporting the people of Marin at the risk of their health. It said something about socio-economics and race in Marin county. I don't know their stories, but I imagine that like most of us they need to work.


If they can show up, I can show up.


How will you show up today?


I wish safety and health for you and those you love.


I wish you peace of mind.


I wish you agency over how you choose to show up.


I wish you understanding for those who are doing their best.


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Jennifer McClanahan-Flint is an Executive Career Strategist and the founder and CEO of Leverage to Lead. She helps women and people of color build careers with audacity and authenticity. If this article was sent to you by someone else and you would like to receive her articles directly in your inbox, please sign up here.

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