Would I Have Done That?

11 Jan

Why is it that I learn more about myself in the aisles of a grocery store than any other place? I’d like to count how many times my blogs begin with a description of an experience in Walmart!

This one starts out much the same, except I decided to go to a new store. As I approached the carts, I noticed they were all hooked together by red cords. Strange looking  boxes were attached to the handles of each. I was perplexed. I pulled the cart nearest to me only to find that it wouldn’t move. I stood there, blankly. “What is going on here?” I thought. I yanked on the cart again. Nothing. I don’t know what I looked like to the other people walking into the store. Did everyone have such trouble getting a cart? Suddenly a woman walked up behind me, “Here hon, take mine,” she said.

“Oh! Thank you!” I replied. “But what exactly is going on here?” I asked, gesturing toward the red contraptions.

She smiled like it wasn’t the first time she had answered this newbie question. “You have to have a quarter to get the cart. They do it so you’ll return them. When you’re done shopping you hook it back up and you get your quarter back.” She pointed to the quarter-sized slot on the front side of the crimson box.

fear and the number of things you hide“Ohhhh!” I laughed gingerly, thanked her again, and held back tears. Yes, tears.

Revelation #1- it’s okay to not know things, it’s okay to ask for help, and  there are good and genuine people in the world. 

“You’re very welcome,” she said. “You’ll learn fast. You come here once and you’ll know what to do next time!” she said cheerily and scampered off to her car.

I drove the cart into the store, slowly navigating the aisles. I wanted to make sure I had a good lay of the land. If I could avoid making a trip to two other place, all the better. “I hate shopping.” The words weren’t audible, but they sounded like it in my head.

I picked up some of my staples– heads of cauliflower, eggs, cans of green beans. And I came to the checkout counter excited with my finds. Not only did they have the things I bought on a weekly basis, but everything at this store was far cheaper than I had been paying. I removed the items from the cart and organized them on the belt.

“Twenty-one, seventy nine,” the woman said to me cheerily. At one point someone had told me that this store didn’t take credit cards. I was ready with my checkbook. No sooner had I scrawled the date in the right top corner when the cashier looked up from her register and said quickly, “Oh, we don’t take checks!” I looked at her quizzically. “We only take debit cards or cash.” That same watch-out-tears-are-coming feeling crept up my chest and into my chin.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I don’t have either. My card is a debit card b….” She cut me off. “You have to have a PIN with it.”

“I don’t.” I replied. “I’m really sorry. I can’t buy these things then.”

“So put them back?”

“Yes,” I said so quietly I’m not sure she heard me. I swallowed hard and fumbled with my checkbook, shoving it back into my purse and took a step toward the door.

“I’ll get them for you.” A woman walked up next to me with a smile.

I looked up. Was she talking to me?

I must have looked stunned, confused. “Really.” She turned to the cashier and put her debit card through the reader, entered her pin, and concluded with “There!” Now the tears were at the bottoms of my eyeballs. In a split second the dam would break.

Don't Believe Everything You Think“I will write you a check,” I said,somehow finding a foundation of strength to hold up my words. “Wow, thank you. I’m so thankful. This was so kind of you. Who can I make the check out to?” I felt like a child…a stammering child. The uber-controlled, confident woman I was so used to being was brought down to what felt like a level of desperation and need. Over the inability to buy her own groceries.

Revelation #2: – it’s okay to not know things, it’s okay to ask for help, it’s okay to accept help, and there are good and genuine people in the world.

I pushed my cart over to the counters lining the  back wall of the store. This was what appeared to be the bagging area. But there were no bags. The benevolent woman leaned over to me from her own cart and said, “Here! Keep these. You’ll want to bring them back with you next time. I’d have hated for you to have a bad experience here. This is a wonderful store. Everything is so expensive these days. I want you to come back!” She smiled and continued chatting with me about a trip she recently took to the Caribbean, what gas prices were like there, and how we are quite lucky to live where we do.

Yes, yes, we are, I thought. Now more than ever this is clear to me.

She looked up from her bags and said, “Do you need another? Can you get everything in those two bags?”

“I think it’s perfect,” I said. “Thank you again. So much, really. It was nice meeting you.”

She smiled and drove her cart away, the sliding doors capping what felt like a fantasy.

ConnectionAs I slid into my car the tears finally came. They collided down my face with gratitude, with grief, with disappointment in how hardened I had become. Was I really so surprised that there existed such generosity in people? Would I have done what they did?

I recognize now it’s not that I don’t believe there is goodness in others. I wouldn’t be a therapist if I believed that. My life’s work revolves around helping others realize their gifts so they can live more fully, more vibrantly, and out loud. It’s so easy to get swept up in our own little insulated worlds that we forget what is truly important though. Connection, fellowship, love, vulnerability, authenticity.

The teacher became the taught in the grocery store that day. The teacher who lives by learning herself but can obviously be surprised by her unthought known.

Revelation #3: it’s okay to not know things, it’s okay to ask for help, it’s okay to accept help, it’s okay to be uncomfortable, vulnerable, and forget what we already know, and there are good and genuine people in the world.

Vulnerability Just Ahead

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4 Responses to “Would I Have Done That?”

  1. Christina Owens January 11, 2013 at 2:50 PM #

    Love this. I find moments like this to be so humbling.

    • kpropst January 11, 2013 at 2:54 PM #

      Absolutely, Christina. Human.

  2. Donna January 11, 2013 at 5:08 PM #

    What a gift and blessing, Kori. A wonderful mantra to repeat.

    • kpropst January 14, 2013 at 10:11 AM #

      Donna, Thank you. It’s something I believe each of us easily forgets. Maybe waking up each morning and asking ourselves, “How can I be my best today for someone else” would help us get into the practice. And then at night reviewing our day and checking in about our level of compassion for others…and ourselves. 🙂

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