Friday, August 26, 2011

Lessons in the grocery store

There's a hurricane on its way.

And EVERYONE was out at the store preparing for its arrival.

But, apparently one older man in the store was at his limit with humanity and had a hurricane already raging in his attitude -- especially toward children.

As my daughter eagerly helped me do our regular shopping for the week amidst the crazed hurricane preparation squads, she accidentally stepped in front of his cart.

Such a sour face I have only rarely seen. Scrooge-like, and I do not exaggerate.

"I'm sorry," squeaked her smiley voice, expecting a "Don't worry, darling!" in return.

It was not to be. He scowled at her with pursed lips and squinted eyes bearing down on what might have been nothing more than a worthless obstacle in his way.

I turned to him, "She said she was sorry," perhaps he was hard of hearing. I'd give him the benefit of the doubt. That's the Christian thing to do, after all.

Nothing -- not a sound. He just slung his crooked posture over his cart and skulked away.

I looked at a very confused 9 yr. old. What do you tell an innocent child about such bitterness? How do you explain that someone, a person who doesn't even know you, can have such disdain for you?

I grabbed her hand and gave it three squeezes -- Father, Son & Holy Spirit.

I looked into her beautiful, wide hazel eyes and said, "That's how people behave when they forget how to love, when no one loves them. What should we do for him?"

"Pray?" came her small voice, still a little unsettled by what had happened. Her expression filled with confusion and hurt.

People standing near us who saw what happened stopped and listened to me talk to her for a moment. Then, they approached and said, "He's our neighbor and about the grouchiest person we've ever met."

I smiled at them kindly. I knew they were trying to help my girl by letting her know that it wasn't just her, but everyone he encounters that feels the bite of his contempt.

I said, "Thank you. I'm sure he's lonely."

We walked off continuing to speak about how loneliness, sadness, suffering, etc. can make a person empty inside. As we approached the end of one aisle, I told my daughter -- we were having a conversation that others could hear -- that lonely people need to be loved. They need to feel the presence of God through the mercy and kindness of others, through our prayers and our forgiveness.

As I said these words, he passed right before us, and shot us an uncomfortable glance. I didn't quite know what to make of it, but I smiled in response.

He didn't say he was sorry, but he didn't grimace at my daughter either. Perhaps he had realized that his behavior was untenable, that not even a child would be permitted to behave as he did in public without some correction. Perhaps...

My daughter learned two essential lessons at the grocery store today:

It's important to love your neighbor, even when they treat you badly. That's the love of Christ.


Always watch where you're going!

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