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Speak Up!

The fall always makes me think of change as it’s all around us. There is no escaping it here in Massachusetts as our leaves start to change color and the air gets more and more crisp. How does change within our lives occur? The answer is by taking action. Sometimes taking action means speaking up. This was the case for me on one hot October day in a local Southern California drug store back when I was in college at Chapman University. I was appalled that day at what I saw and decided to speak up.

I stood in line at the checkout counter of this local drug store ready to pay for my items when I noticed a small child, maybe four or five years old, standing at the counter waiting for his mother to finish paying. The top of his head barely reached the top of the counter. Like most children, he was so filled with wonder and curiosity as he stood there looking at everything. He was a joy to stand there and watch. My joy quickly turned to shock and disappointment.

“What?!” I thought. “How could this be?!”

There at the counter, right in front of his face, was the most outrageous sight. Tobacco products. Rows and rows of cigarettes and cigars.

My mind was racing. “Cigarettes?! What happened to the candy? They always have candy at the front of a store!”

In my experience, tobacco products are usually behind the cashier and sometimes even locked up. I’ve even worked in a drug store when I was a teenager where this was the case. The tobacco products were behind me at the checkout counter and the candy was always in the front rows below the counter.

I stood there dumbfounded as the boy had no choice but to smell the pungent smell of cigarettes. He winced a bit in confusion of what he smelled and went to reach for a cigar from the box of cigars. Luckily his mother had finished checking out at this point and stopped him from picking up the cigar. They exited the store and went on with their lives.

I, however, was still in shock. My instinct kicked in and I just couldn’t go on with my life without saying something. Everything in my gut, my body, and my mind was screaming at me to speak up. So, I did. I asked the cashier politely if I could speak to a manager. I explained the situation I had just witnessed to the manager. I said it was sad to see a child staring directly at tobacco products. I enquired as to why they didn’t have the cigarettes behind the counter and the typical candy stored below the counter to which the manager didn’t have an answer. I said that it just seemed so wrong to have the tobacco products displayed right there for children to explore. I suggested that candy seemed like a much better option than cigarettes and cigars. The manager said she would bring this up to her boss and thanked me for pointing that out to her.

One week later I happened to go into the store and one of the first things I noticed was the tobacco products were all behind the cashier. Candy had replaced where the tobacco had been at the front below the counter. I chose to politely speak up that day and my decision made an impact. Taking action by speaking up caused a change in that store. Boy am I glad I spoke up!

What action will you take to make a change and create an impact?

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