Mondays are my long days. I usually log about 11 to 12 hours. At the end of today I was tired but needed to stop at the store because I could no longer subsist on sriracha and sweet potatoes.
Like most people, I dread grocery shopping. I avoid it to the extent I make it a challenge to use the remaining eggs, lentils, and cashews in my kitchen to create edible meals for days.
Truth be told, there are stubborn qualities about me which probably contribute to my loathing of grocery stores. I’m fairly certain I have a pathological aversion to shopping carts. No matter how long my list, I insist upon using a hand-held basket to carry all my goodies. I fill my basket until it is so heavy I have to rest it on one hip, like women may do with small infants, to keep it upright. Fellow customers give me confused looks as I walk stiff-legged through the store, my basket growing more unwieldy with each aisle I traverse.
Budget saavy people will tell you using a basket helps you limit spending because you feel the weight of your purchase. For me, it works because I am too proud to get a cart and thus forced to check out before my arms break.
My visit to the store tonight was especially memorable. When I parked, I noticed I had forgot my wallet at home but I had my checkbook from a bill I had to pay earlier.
As I walked into the store, I thought ironically…It’s 2017 and I’m going to pay for my groceries with a check book. This…is a first. I had flashbacks to my childhood, in line at Carrs with my mom and sister. I watch my mom write a check and I am fascinated with the steady rhythm of her penmanship. I watched her form each letter. How did she do her signature the same each time? How did she stay within the line? It was magical – all the clerk needed to give us our groceries was a small piece of paper.
The transaction with my check was not magical. The clerk rang up my groceries, I handed her the check, and she asked for my driver’s license number.
Me: “I forgot my wallet. That’s why I’m paying with a check.”
Clerk: “I’m sorry, there is no way to override it. In order to process the check we need your driver’s license number.”
Me: “Ok, let me see if I can try to remember it.”
Clerk: “If you want, we can hold your groceries and you can run home and get it.”
Me (in my head): “Ma’am, you obviously don’t know how much will it took to get in this store. If I leave, I will not return, no matter how much I need those taco shells.”
I have a foggy visual of my driver’s license in my head. It has three dashes, right? But how many numbers? I contemplate making up a number but how could I convincingly fabricate one when I just told her I didn’t remember it? I fantasize about being the character in Rainman and able to remember every number I’ve ever seen. I hold my head in my hands and try to think, think, think.
Out of nowhere, a young woman comes up besides me with her debit card. Her smile is genuine and unassuming.
She says, “I can see you’re in a bind. Let me help you.”
She motions to the clerk to run her card to pay for my groceries. I am flushed with relief and gratitude. Even though she would have done this without reimbursement, I write her a check to cover the cost. We wish each other a good night as we walk out the store. I thank her repeatedly.
I drive home and feel such a sense of surprise and gratitude. This woman didn’t have to help. It’s not like I was making a scene. She must have been paying attention. How often do we pay attention in order to help someone? How often do we pay attention to what is happening outside of our own mind?
There is so much kindness in this world. It is so easy for me to get absorbed into what I call ‘small mind’ – the mind of the ego and self. Small mind is the place where I feel overwhelmed with work, annoyed with my errands and ignorant of my privilege, subsequently missing the big picture and the small miracles.
I am surrounded by more beauty and kindness than I could ever hope to appreciate in this lifetime. Thank you, dear friend from the store, for your unexpected and unwarranted kindness tonight. I hope I can pass along your generosity. Please know your simple act has triggered ripples of awakening in me.
“At first glance, it may appear too hard. Look again. Always look again.”
– Mary Ann Rodmacher
Arianna Smith Counseling LLC