Today I found myself inside Costco, the large warehouse chain store in the U.S., perhaps they are elsewhere, not sure. As my wife was shopping for fruits and vegetables, I was mesmerized with a display of gloves. They were the sportwear brand, HEAD, and were labeled as “running gloves.” Now, I am not about to start running, I can barely walk on my bad knee, but I am quite fond of light, comfortable gloves that are being sold for only $11. I was deep in analysis of color and size when suddenly I felt as if I was back in high school playing football.
Something quite large hit me on the side of my leg, hip, and waist. Honestly, the first thought I had was that I had just been tackled. Fortunately, the large display of very awesome gloves was also very sturdy and helped me to keep my balance, but I was shocked and a little confused.
“Oh…my…God. Are you alright? I didn’t see you. This poinsettia was in my way. Oh, I am so sorry.”
The woman saying that was pushing a full cart and in that top section, where purses fit and toddlers sit, was indeed a very big and, if I may so, beautiful poinsettia. I was still a bit confused thinking how fast was she moving down these crowded isles blinded by a poinsettia?
“I am so sorry. Are you sure you are okay?”
She was as upset as I was surprised that it might be possible to be killed by a poinsettia while selecting a pair of gloves to purchase, but I did feel quite sorry for her. She was truly upset and embarrassment was starting to set in too.
“I am fine. I just thought for a moment I was playing football again. I am good. It’s all good.”
She sheepishly continued going down the isle, but right behind the scene of the accident, a man was pushing his cart and he saw the whole thing. The eyewitness said, “You okay? I thought she knew you at first. I thought at first she was your wife.”
“Nah, never met and if my wife was mad enough to run me over with a grocery cart, I probably wouldn’t still be standing.”
The eyewitness chuckled and said, “Yeah, me too.”
He continued down the isle and as I went another direction I saw him talking briefly with the poinsettia lady. She still seemed upset.
A minute or so later, with my newly selected pair of gloves in my hand, I found myself in another isle and again next to the eyewitness. He saw me limping. “Wow, now you’re limping pretty good.”
“Oh, I’ve been limping like this for over 50 years,” I said.
Suddenly I felt an urge to tell him a little more and I knew it was socially risky, but that is one advantage of being 69 years old – you can get away with some of those eccentric behaviors.
“Let me tell you something. This morning I got up before 5 o’clock and as I sat in my chair thinking about life and the new day, I decided I needed to act more lovingly and I made it my resolution for the day. I get a little cranky and irritable and I don’t always act kindly. So I guess I was just given the chance.”
The eyewitness did not seem comfortable with this information from a complete stranger. Still he said, “I thought you handled it really well.”
“I passed the test, huh? Well, be careful what you put out there because you just never know what you’ll set in motion. Take care.”
Three complete strangers came together in one moment. Is it all just random nothingness? Or, is God, whatever that is, just playing a dice game with us? Or, did I need this moment for my own sake? Was it purposeful? Did the poinsettia lady need this encounter? Did the eyewitness need to hear my morning confession for some reason? Did all three of us need this moment?
Then I looked around the crowded store, everybody seemed anxious, stressed, hurried and isolated as they tried to get around and by one another – typical Christmas season vibe in retail – no eye contact, no acknowledgement of other human beings being very close to you. I saw people getting frustrated when the person pushing their own cart in front of them would slow down, or heaven forbid, stop, to look at an item. I did not see one single smile and certainly no laughter. They were moving fast and doing so blinded to others and they didn’t have a beautiful poinsettia to blame. I realized, I was the same way just a few minutes before when I was solely concentrating on purchasing a pair of gloves.
I needed a slice of life.
God bless you.
What a day you had, that story is why I really don’t like this season. Your travails reminded me of a Christmas Eve shopping “emergency” to get one more gift for my then 13 year old son. The stores were crowded, full of anxious, stressed shoppers one banged into me with a cart, I was slightly stunned. I left that store empty handed. I finally found the item in a store that was just across the street from my neighborhood. I don’t miss holiday shopping or the crazed intensity of the retail driven, something that has lost its importance in my holiday celebrations. I’m sorry you were hurt and I’m sorry that the shopper didn’t have the common sense to arrange her cart more carefully, you were very gracious when someone else may have been very angry. It sounds as if you had a chance to express kindness and she had a chance to be more mindful.
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So easy, especially during this time of the year, to fall under the spell and into a stupor adding to a sort of collective mindlessness. Often it takes a jolt to waken us up. Yet, on the other hand, moving at a high rate of speed, in a crowded store, without vision because one chose to block it out is, well, disrespectful to others at the least. There were plenty of frail people in the same vicinity who would not have stayed on their feet.
We see evidence of that kind of disrespect every day when we drive into Chico. People running red lights is so common, I mean we easily see two or three in fifteen minutes, because their desires come before your safety. One can easily conclude that retreating from this mindlessness chaos is best. Yet, that can feel empty too, missing that much needed ingredient of life-others. But, as you well say, it can all be overwhelmingly stunning.
I see the pandemic as a period of learning, people either became more aware of they ignored the messages and impatiently blew through the year and a half until the “all clear” was given. Or not retreating nut redirecting your time and energy to other ways to blend that ingredient of life-others such as volunteering, shop small local businesses, reading to those with sight problems. I volunteered for over 17 years, I also spent time giving to myself in a variety of ways, mindfulness opens a lot of doors if people like that women would only walk through. An aside note, I was driving home from my son’s place years ago and watched a man who had a baby in a car seat run a red light, he never hesitated after, I on the other hand panicked.
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I think that’s a great way of looking at recent events, Laura. I love the volunteering you brought up. The few times I have tried, I didn’t really feel too comfortable being around the volunteers. I got a problem with judging people in certain situations I suppose – like churches and volunteer events – to be painfully honest….the joke used to be, a yellow light means to drive faster…now substitute red light and really faster!!!…really enjoyed your replies, they are thoughtful and thought provoking.
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That was a real slice of life, Gary, and a typical Christmas store scene, people wrapped up in their own life, unaware of others. Thank God for resolutions made before 5:00 a.m. Random strangers brought together reminds me of some forty years ago when I used to go for an hours ‘Spiritual Direction’ every Saturday with a priest which ended in Confession ( Sacrament of Reconciliation). In one of these sessions for my penance he told me to go to a shopping centre food court and sit next to a person who was sitting alone and try to engage them in conversation. Which I did for a month, all with positive results.
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I not only “liked” your reply, but I LOVED your reply, Len. Fascinating and uplifting.
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I’m happy you weren’t seriously injured Gary, but it sounds like you were there for a reason. I’ve noticed a drastic change this season while out shopping almost as if everyone is angry at the most magical time of the year! Costco sells some of the biggest poinsettias I’ve ever seen! Maybe they should rethink that. 😊
Wonderful the way life works, huh? Each of you got a little extra something from your day. Blessings!
We have costco in England although I dont go. Ive managed to keep my shopping to shops in small villages or online. Sometimes I wonder how I managed the craziness of finding that one present for your child that every other parent is looking for. Then suddenly they are all grown up and cooking christmas dinner for Nonna🥰. I hope when you wear your gloves they will bring a smile to your face as you remembet your close shave with a pointsetia!