When I was younger my mom would take my brother and I grocery shopping at the Laneco on Lehigh Street. We would dutifully walk with her through the first several aisles. I’m guessing those aisles contained the junk food we needed as teenagers. Piling up the requisite carbs and sugar the week, we would begin to get anxious. My mother would dole out a handful of quarters. The Laneco on Lehigh Street had a rockin’ arcade. My brother and I would blissfully pass the remainder of time in the arcade, while my mother bought yucky things like vegetables. (I lie, we never really had that many vegetables growing up. Sorry, Mom.)
I have not always done the grocery shopping for the family. In this season of COVID-19, I have gone to the Land of Three Bridges and a Culver’s to buy our groceries. In the first weeks of COVID-19, I shopped like the Tasmanian Devil. I tornadoed through Wal-Mart and Pic and Save grabbing meat, cheese, ice cream ALL pastas, small children, candy bars, and toilet paper. Occasionally the vortex would sweep vegetables and other green stuff into the cart. I would get home frazzled by the experience not really knowing what I had bought or what we would do with a kohlrabi, but I didn’t want to miss out people started hoarding kohlrabi.
I have learned between my regular runs to the Pig and to Sturgeon Bay to take a list. Krauss’ can be very particular about what kind of toothpaste and shampoo they use. I have found a pen with a clip to put in my shirt. As I maneuver around the store, I cross off what was on the list. Every week, I get the essentials of meat, cheese, ice cream, ALL pastas, candy bars, toilet paper, and vegetables.
Yesterday, I went to the Land of Three Bridges and a Culver’s. My trip featured a trip to Target…I crossed the bridge!!! Most people wore masks. Most people waited patiently. Most people paid attention to physical distancing.
At Pic and Save, as often happens, I crisscrossed paths with the same woman six or seven times. We traveled aisle to aisle; I coming in one direction, she in the other. When we met up in the chip aisle, she struggled. I can’t blame her. She was looking for a very specific make and brand of pretzel. The mountain of pretzel options overwhelmed her. She darted back and forth across the aisle trying to get out of my way, but needing to get it right. At one point she had four bags of pretzels in her cart. I smiled at her under my mask while I waited. I finally said, “It’s OK. Take your time.” Above her mask I saw her furrowed brow relax and a smile blossomed on her face.
We shared a beautiful human moment. A moment that pre-COVID-19 days would have gone unnoticed and underappreciated. A moment that in the first weeks of COVID-19 would have produced an apoplectic fit deep within my soul. But I was at peace.
I didn’t realize how important that moment was until I went to bed and reflected upon my day. It was the moment that I saw God yesterday…a struggling, confused, bewildered God reaching for bag of pretzel after bag of pretzel trying to get it right, needing to get it right.
It’s OK. Take your time.
These moments of grace we offer to other human beings transcend our actions and intentions. They also reveal our deep desire to love and be loved. When we can look the Other in the eye and offer them patience, or encouragement, or hope, then the world is right again. Regardless of all that is wrong, the world is right.
I love you.
I need you.
I hope for you.
Please be safe.