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Essays by Karen Anderson: Compliment

Illustration by Kacie Brown

I am standing in line at the post office, counting the people in front of me, feeling impatient and annoyed. I glance at the clock and glance out the window, admitting to myself that I’m not in a hurry. I’m just feeling lonely and lost and it’s not about the post office.

I shift my package to the other hip and count the people again. Same total. “I like your socks,” a man says as he walks by, my cotton tie-dye socks from a local store. He’s gone before I can thank him and I look down at my socks—the bright orange, red, blue, green colors all flowing together in random patterns.

They’re nothing special, really. Anybody can make tie-dye socks, but somebody noticed and decided to tell me, to toss me a compliment on his way out the door. Suddenly I felt blessed and grateful out of all proportion for this simple kindness.

Maybe not so simple. How often do I hand out compliments to strangers? I can’t remember the last time. The line of people had moved and it was my turn at the counter. “Sorry about the wait,” the fellow says and reaches for my package.

“No problem,” I said. “You guys do a great job.”

Karen Anderson contributes "Essays by Karen Anderson" to Interlochen Public Radio.