A Lesson in a Supermarket

Photo Credit- Justine Willis Toms
photo by Justine Willis Toms

New Dimensions’ guest, Susan Moon, tells the story of her mother’s circle of women friends. They called themselves “Mothers of Daughters” and would meet each time a daughter came to visit from far away. Although their hands were shaking and many used walkers to help them get around, they had each lived vibrant and interesting lives.

So often we are quick to dismiss our elders. We can be impatient with them as they amble slowly down the grocery store aisles blocking our way as we rush around in our “busy” and “important” lives. There was a day, however, when I was stopped in my tracks by a young man who had a different view of senior citizens.

Waiting in an express checkout line in my local grocery story, distracting myself by looking at the headlines of the latest issue of People magazine, I soon began to notice that the line had come to a stop. An elderly, grey-headed woman in the line ahead of me was not following the rules. She was slowly unloading her cart of many, many more items than the designated ten.

The young man, who looked to be in his twenties, was patiently ringing up each item. I was surprised that he didn’t admonish her but was carefully scanning all her groceries while she watched each item tick up an amount on the screen. He then called someone over to bag them. Unlike me, who prides herself to be supremely efficient, she slowly opened her purse, rummaged around until she found her check book, and taking her time to write as legibly as she could, she then carefully tore it out and handed it to the young man. I, along with the others in line, shifted uneasily on our feet as we grudgingly waited for her to finish.

As our collective impatience rose to fever pitch, the young man patiently asked her, “Do you have help? Is someone picking you up?” She sweetly replied, “Yes.” He then called an assistant to come over and instructed him to help her out to the curb where she could meet her ride. Slowly she put her check book away and with shaking fingers, snapped her purse closed and proceeded with halting steps to move out of line.

I was next and as I stepped up to the register the young man looked at me and he said, “You know, we will all be there someday.”

My heart melted and my impatience disappeared. In this age of efficiency and rush, this astute young man demonstrated a true sense of graciousness and kindness. My prayer is to carry this lesson and to pass it on whenever and wherever I can.

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