A Year of Being Kind blog – Tuesday, January 14, 2014
The grocery store. I don’t generally go to the store during the day. Usually, my shopping trips involve evenings or weekends. But not today. My daughter called and asked for several things we could use in the kitchen, and I went on my way home from work, mid-afternoon.
What a difference a few hours makes! The daytime clientele inhabiting the nearby grocery store had marked differences. I saw a lot of moms doing shopping for the week (or, at least a number of days). The most notable group I noticed were senior citizens. As opposed to the moms of families. I felt a bit like a sociology grad student, out doing field research. Yes, I watched the moms as they pushed the well-laden carts. I could relate to them, and I knew what they were doing. Having often done it myself. But the seniors, they were especially fascinating to me.
I’ve been told that I am especially good at working with seniors. A chaplain friend of mine who works at a large senior retirement center said to me a few years ago, “You ought to have ‘Good with seniors’ tattooed on your forehead.” This does not only go for my work. I genuinely like older people. They have complex and fascinating stories to relate. It’s satisfying for me to come alongside of seniors, listen to them, journey for a little way with them, try to alleviate their problems or needs, or rejoice and praise God with them. Whatever it is that fills the bill.
This particular afternoon as I shopped, I observed the seniors as they chose things at the store. I only had about twelve things in my basket, so I made a beeline for the 15 items or less lane. (The moms with large carts-full were taking up many of the other check-out aisles.) A senior stood directly ahead of me, also waiting his turn. Stooped and elderly, he still determined to get his own shopping done. His items already sat on the conveyer belt. Just a few feet from me, a store employee was assisting him as he tried to read the small print on a coupon. “It’s right over there. See? Just around the corner.” She pointed two aisles away.
I could see the senior deliberate. I could almost hear his thoughts. He decided to go for it. He left the ten or so items on the belt, and went over to get the popcorn. I had a sudden image of him at night, after dinner. Popping that corn and watching television or cable or movies, on DVD or TiVo. I found myself smiling. He had a bit of difficulty finding the specific popcorn, for the store employee went to help him. Just two dozen feet away. Just a number of seconds. I waited patiently in line, saving his place.
Another senior, a disgruntled one this time, came up behind me. He narrowed his eyes and looked over the seemingly-abandoned items on the belt. He looked at me. I smiled at him, and then turned my eyes to the first senior, still fetching his last item. The popcorn. The disgruntled one glanced over at the belt of items, and then back two aisles over. His face wrinkled up in a decided frown. He muttered to himself and stalked away to another check-out aisle. It was only a few more seconds before the popcorn-senior returned to his place in line.
He never knew about that little drama with the disgruntled man. And I never told him. But I saved his place for him. I stood back at a respectful distance, and that man got his popcorn. Bought it. Brought it home. I wonder if he’s popping it tonight, after dinner? I hope he enjoys it. And I was of service today. I think God was pleased. It’s as simple as that.