The raindrops were heavy and the clouds appeared dark and dreary as our family sat at the breakfast table yesterday. The girls and I enjoyed our favorite whole wheat toast with cream cheese and a strawberry smoothie before heading out in the rain for groceries in town. It was my oldest daughter’s turn to select where we would shop and with the promise of a cart complete with a plastic steering wheel, she gleefully opted for Kroger.
As I shopped, along with my two favorite shopping partners, we laughed, picked out a few special treats, and didn’t even mind having to remind our littlest shopper to sit down when the cart was in motion. As we reached the check-out, I became frustrated by our experience with the cashier and how we were treated. It was if we were an inconvenience and clearly she did not have the support she needed to do her job well as all of the baggers had disappeared. Normally I don’t mind helping with bagging groceries, but with a crying toddler on my hip, it was out of the question. I asked to talk to the manager of the store and did not receive much sympathy or reassurance that the store appreciated our business. I felt beaten down and discouraged by this time and sadly, left the store nearly in tears.
I write this story not to complain about Kroger, as I am sure there are many wonderful employees who do a fabulous job every day in every store. It was what happened later that caused me to be grateful for even the challenging moments in Kroger and to remember than not every day should be filled with roses. It also reminds me of the precious opportunities each of us is given in life that we can choose to share kindness, cruelty or indifference to a stranger. Do we choose to live life as “bucket-fillers,” or “bucket-dippers?”
After the groceries were unloaded at home, I had a good talk with myself, promising not to let the actions of another bother me so intensely, especially in the middle of the grocery store. Next, I put on my flip flops, raincoat, applied a fresh coat of mascara, and headed back out to a smaller store to pick up some Easter surprises for the weekend. I was now with my youngest daughter who still enjoys her afternoon nap, but I hoped we could return home before this became necessary. As she and I shopped, she fell asleep in my arms. I happily carried her through the store, pushing the cart with my right hand and holding her with my left.
As we reached the check out at this store, I held her in my arms and hoped I would be able to seamlessly remove my wallet from my purse without waking her . My back was beginning to ache and my left arm was shaking from the 22-pounds that I had been supporting when I heard the woman in front of me tell the cashier that she would like to buy a pink stuffed animal for my daughter. I waited to be sure I had heard this correctly, and before I could craft my response, the woman turned to me with a stuffed pink bear adorned with a red ribbon around its neck. She softly stated, “I want to buy this for your daughter. She is precious…my children are grown. God bless her.” I smiled at the beautiful woman with long gray hair and a golden cross around her neck. “Thank you, she will love it, “ I replied with a smile from ear to ear.
The old woman then told me that her own “baby”, who appeared to be close to 60 years of age was shopping with her, and she does not have little children to buy Easter treasures for any longer. I told her that I appreciate the gift so very much and that when my sleeping bundle awakes from her nap she will be delighted. “God bless you, and Happy Easter,” was her last comment before she and her grown daughter walked out of the store.
As my own sleeping baby and I left the store the sun was shining. I felt renewed and refreshed. God have given me the gift of kindness from a stranger that gave me a feeling of peace and faith in humankind. I felt better about the world and the day. The rain had stopped and it was time to give thanks for a day filled with unexpected lessons and unexpected blessings
This Easter as we look at the pink bear wearing a red ribbon who is now a Tobbe family treasure, I pray that our family is strengthened by God’s love and grace, and that the eyes of our faith are open to strangers with big hearts and that, we too, can be the long-haired stranger wearing a golden cross to someone who we unexpectedly meet on our path.