Today I got the opportunity to go to the grocery store without taking my three kids along. I collected the groceries I needed without anyone asking for a cookie, or asking to buy junkfood, or without telling any kids to "knock that off" or "quit fighting". I didn't have to remember whose turn it was to drive the kiddie shopping cart or ask anyone to stop licking the produce (don't ask).
I selected a checkout line, and it was (of course) the slowest line in the history of mankind. I had a lot to think about while I was standing in line. The reason the line was so slow was because the lady in front of me didn't have enough money for her groceries. Here are a few of the things I was contemplating while I stood behind her:
1) Thank goodness my kids aren't in line with me.
I knew the right attitude to have while I stood in line for all of eternity: To be thankful that it wasn't me up there, trying to figure out what food I could do without. I was thankful for that, but I also knew it would have been a lot harder to remember that gratefulness if I had been at the end of a shopping trip with my kiddos. Those darn nice checkers always ask me "how are you today?" and the answer is always a crazy-eyed "fine but nobody else better touch anything or mom's gonna lose it". The thing is, I ought to be able to be patient with life's road bumps even with the kids in tow. I'm not sure I would have been. My kids are an amazing blessing on their worst day, but I think I get overwhelmed by the constancy of motherhood and lose perspective a few million times a day.
2) If she knew she only had $90 to spend, why didn't she add up her food as she shopped?
Okay, this sounds a litter meaner than I actually felt in the moment. I just felt so bad for her and wished she wasn't in this situation that she clearly felt mortified by. Then I thought...maybe she doesn't have the math skills to do mental calculation or even the math skills to add everything up on paper. I think a good education is something I take for granted. Maybe she didn't have the benefit of that, so adding up a bunch of items in a grocery store is a little beyond her. An easy time with math is something else I should be thankful for...
3) Why can't I look at her?
I found myself looking at everything in the store except for that poor woman. She was really embarrassed. She kept having the checker take a few items out and then retotal the bill and then try to run her credit card again...hoping to get under her credit limit I suppose. I didn't want to stand there staring at her, watching her trying to decide if it would be easier to do without the milk or the meat. I didn't want her to think that I couldn't bear to look at her or that she was somehow beneath my notice. I think the right thing to do would have been to give her an encouraging look...but somehow I couldn't master that and so I just avoided her gaze. I think Maybeth would have known how to be more supportive.
Just wanted to share my experience at the grocery store while it was on my mind. Just reflecting on people that have to struggle to buy food makes me want to do more to support local food banks. Let's all reach out to help our neighbors who are struggling this holiday season.