Shopping Cart Moments

I have a confession.

Are you ready? it goes: Every time I see a shopping cart that is carelessly left in a parking spot by the prior shopper, I feel compelled to put it back in the shopping cart corral every time.  And I do.

Now, that might make me a little OCD about shopping carts, no doubt.  And I'm sure there's some sort of psychological term for this.  However, I can trace my need to do this back to a single event; a solitary moment in time that ingrained this habit deep into my psyche.  

In high school I was driving towards a stop light. As I slowed down listening to the music on my radio and laughing with my friends, something caught my eye in the left-hand lane.  I noticed some cars behaving oddly.  They kept darting into my lane and quickly swerving back into there's.  As I started to come to a stop, the reason for this became obvious: there was a lone shopping cart in the lane.  It was just sitting there.  I smiled as I noticed each and every car going around it and going about its business.  The reason for that smile was because no driver - not a single one - took the time to remove the obstacle from their path.  As I looked at the other cars stopped around me, their passengers were all smiling and looking on as each driver coming towards us did the same dance and went about their day.  This nagged me for some reason.  And I decided to take matters into my own hands (my…that sounded epic, huh?).  I got out of my car, strode boldly to the shopping cart, took the handle in my hands and started to push the cart to the safety of the parking lot.  Slowly at first, though I was quickly reminded that I was in the middle of a busy street and upped my pacing a little.  I dropped the cart off and started to walk back to my car.  As I did a funny thing happened.  The drivers (still stopped at the red light) started clapping and honking their horns. They started whistling and yelling, "Thanks," and, "Good job!" At that time in my young life, it was the closest thing I'd experienced to a standing ovation.  I felt like a superhero - and I knew there wasn't a shopping cart in the world that would escape my swift justice. I blushed, waived, and got back in my car.  Life went on and the years passed by.

To this day, because of my "Shopping Cart Moment," I still have this strange compulsion to put shopping carts back in their place when they’re left to aimlessly roam the parking lot.  Why?  Because when I took an action, I received positive feedback that changed my life.  I know...I know, the above story is just about shopping carts and, in the relative scheme of things, is kind of silly.

Or is it?

You might leave this post thinking, "I wonder when and where Mike shops?  If it's where I go, then I know I can leave my shopping cart in the parking lot because it will end up in good hands!"

...okay, you might be right on that.  BUT, you could also leave this post keeping this in mind: sometimes a little bit of positive feedback from a stranger (or group of strangers) can change a person's life forever. And, make no mistake; the giver of feedback need not be a stranger! That day, strangers thanked me for doing something relatively innocuous, but for many, many years since I've continued to do it - all because of a little positive feedback, at right time, in the right place, from the right people.

The people in our lives (and all around us) all need their own "Shopping Cart Moments."

So, the next time you see a stranger do a good deed, or you get great service from your barista, or someone holds the door for you, why not take some extra time to say, "Thank You" or acknowledge them in whatever way you feel is appropriate. At work or with your family, how can you foster "Shopping Cart moments" of inspiration in the lives of your employees and loved ones? As you go out into the world today, let's make a commitment to fostering more "Shopping Cart Moments."

Ultimately, you never know - you might just make their day and you might, just might help them create a habit that they carry with them for the rest of their life.