Looking for the Win-Win

by Amanda Brophy (age 12)
Byron, Minnesota, USA

My Dad is an engineer. To me, that means he loves to solve problems. It also means that he is always encouraging me and my two sisters to think. It’s like he looks at every situation in life either as a puzzle to be solved, or one that has already been solved.

Looking for a Win WinOne of the things that really gives Dad a big sense of accomplishment is when he figures out “The Win-Win situation”. This means more than just a compromise. It means finding a solution to a problem, where you and the other people involved really feel happy about the result. It’s not easy coming up with them at the time, but the answers look obvious once we find them.

Stray shopping carts is one of Dad’s win-win-wins! Whenever we go to a shopping plaza or a grocery store, he tries to park near the “strays”. Then we each take one, and wheel it in to the store. When we’re walking in a parking lot, the shopping cart makes it almost impossible for a moving car to not see us. (And the loud noise they make going across the rough pavement reminds the drivers to look, too!) That’s important for us kids, because we aren’t as visible as adults, and it keeps us safe from moving cars that might not see us. It’s also good for the people driving near us, because they don’t worry so much about where the wondering kids are, and whether they’re going to dart into harm’s way. It also makes it easier to park, because these strays usually take up a parking space. The third “win”: store workers have less work to do, gathering up the strays. Dad says this keeps costs down, and that’s really important for the store and the shoppers.

The more I think about it, there are other wins that Dad hasn’t told us about. Dad wins, because he doesn’t worry so much that someone might back out and hit us, or even him. He’s tall, but sometimes drivers can’t see everything that’s behind the car.

When we first started bringing in the strays, it was pretty embarrassing. That was a big “LOSE”, as far as I could see. I never saw  anyone else do it, and I usually had other things on my mind. Now it’s just something we do. Dad says that little choices like this make our world a better place, one act at a time. I think he’s right.

Originally published as HeroicStories #69 on oct 9, 1999
Available in The Best of HeroicStories, Volume 1.

8 thoughts on “Looking for the Win-Win”

  1. I do this, always have… since I worked at a discount store in the 70s and had to collect the carts before nights end. Just makes sense. The “make a bigger target” for kids make sense too. You dad is a thoughtful, caring man.

  2. I hope Amanda sees this, now that she’s about 30 years old, and let us know what she’s up to? I wonder if she’s an engineer too.

    Whatever she is, I’m sure she benefited well by being encouraged by her dad to think!

  3. I’m a bit on the OCD side so I have always walked my shopping cart to the turn in spot. While I am there I notice the carts are in disarray as usual. So I put them in order. This is my win because my world has a little more order to it. Other customers win because there is more room to store their carts properly. And the employees win because it makes their job easier.

  4. This is one of the best stories ever, and I’ve been reading them since near the beginning!!! What makes it so compelling is that it was written by a 12-year-old. As Leo suggests elsewhere, there’s hope for the planet after all.

  5. What great reasoning Amanda’s dad has! Thanks to Amanda for sharing this idea with us.

    My (late) elderly mother used to walk a shopping cart into a store, too. It steadied her as she gripped the handle and pushed the cart. I learned from her, and offer to take back a cart that a customer has just unloaded. And similar to Amanda’s dad, I feel that drivers would rather allow me to cross than dent their cars should they hit my cart!

  6. This is a great story! As the mom of a 7 year old, I certainly appreciate the wonderful example this dad has set for his children. I, too, would love to hear what Amanda is doing these days, and how the lessons of win-win thinking have influenced her through her life.

  7. I’ve always done this for all the same reasons. And I’ll wait for someone to empty it so I can take it. Those people with young children in the car especially appreciate this. And I feel safer with a metal cart between me and a moving car!

  8. Since this was originally published in 1999, that means I’ve been walking shopping carts from the parking lot back to the store for almost 25 years now. I started doing it after reading this HS. I tell people it’s the safest way to cross the parking lot, and they usually smile and agree.


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