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Sunday, February 21, 2010

retail therapy

Saturday afternoon I worked at my retail job. I'm employed by a high-end women's clothing store, catered towards working women in need of attire more formal than a pair of jeans. It is customary for me to put together outfits for interviews and special events for clients as they come in. Yesterday was no exception to this, but the nature of the cases will forever engrain the day in my mind.

My shift began midday, and when I got there, the store was packed to the gills with swarming customers. I jumped right in to help alleviate some of the stress on my coworkers. The first client I worked with for the day came in looking exhausted, frustrated, and totally uninterested in the shopping she apparently needed to do. I greeted her as warmly as I could and asked if there was anything I could help her find.

"I need black," she said.

"We can do that!"

I added several items to the dress she already had in her hands and set her up in a fitting room. A few minutes later I came to check on her to find her in the dress she had picked out herself. It wasn't quite the right fit and I began making a mental list of all the other clothing options I could show her.

"I shouldn't have to be doing this," she said.

"It's alright," I reassured her, "We'll find the right dress."

And then it came out. "My best friend was murdered last week. It's her funeral I am buying this outfit for. She would have liked to see me in a dress." The tears began welling in her eyes, and I jumped into high alert. I rubbed her arm, offered my condolences, and quickly shifted to finding her the proper attire. With all of the love in my heart, I told her she wouldn't need to worry about a thing. I would bring her all of the options. All she had to do was try them on.

For the next half hour, this heart broken woman and myself pilfered through the best the store had to offer, until we found it. You know, it. The outfit. After all of the options had been tried, my new friend put on a simple black dress with a black crew neck cardigan over it. We cinched her in with a cheetah print skinny belt and the ensemble really came together when she kicked off her socks and put on the most fantastic pair of basic black patent pumps.

And then the miracle happened. She smiled. She looked at herself in the mirror and saw a beautiful woman looking back and she smiled. Though the world as she knew it was crumbling around her, she felt good for a moment.

She smiled as she left the store that evening, heavy laden with shopping bags rather than grief and burdens. And I smiled, filled with gratitude for the experience.

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