Shopping for Salvation – May 7, 2021

In some ways, I admit that I live a weird life.  Since I began to see life as a spiritual journey, I have had daily opportunities to exercise my spiritual muscles.   As I learn to stop sleepwalking through life, I find joy and meaning in the most mundane events.  Read on to see what I mean.

It had been a “grumpy sort of day” right from the start.  I’d woken up grumpy.  Everybody at work had been grumpy.  Even the people who visited were grumpy.  To top it all off, I had to stop at the grocery store on the way home.

Stopping at the grocery on my way home is at the top of my all-time favorite things to avoid.  After work, I’m tired.  All I want to do is go home, change out of my work clothes, and relax.  Of course, that’s all the other one thousand and one people in the grocery store want, too.  And because we’re not alone, we’re all grumpy!

This day was no exception.  All the other after-work shoppers were there, just waiting to get in my way.  I zeroed in on the needed groceries, filled my arms with less than ten items, and raced to the Express lanes.  All to no avail.  The lines were six deep, some with MORE than ten items in their carts!

Then, the most dreaded thing happened. The cashier held up an item and called for a price check.  Oh, no!  My arms were already beginning to tremble.  I wasn’t in shape for this!  I should have gotten a cart or at least a basket.

Suddenly, I saw movement behind the checkout stand next to me. Yes!  It was going to open up!  As soon as the cashier lifted the rope, I sprang into line.  Relief flooded through me.  Relief flooded through me!  I put my items down on the conveyor belt and lifted my head to smile at my savior.

He didn’t look up at me.  He just rang up my groceries, told me the total, and began to bag my purchases.  I kept smiling, wanting to exchange one pleasant word with someone so I could redeem this grumpy sort of day.  His head stayed down, refusing to make eye contact with me.

I recognized this cashier and realized that I’d never seen him speak to any of the customers.  He was a small man, maybe 45 years old, with wispy blond hair and glasses.  He was also cross-eyed.  I took my sack and left the store feeling unaccountably sad.

On my way back to the car, I puzzled over the fact that this cashier had resisted my unspoken attempt at friendliness. I wasn’t sad for me; I was sad for him.  What could make a person turn inward so much that he wouldn’t risk a simple hello?

I replayed the way he’d kept his head down and didn’t look me in the eye or speak to me, except to announce the total.  I wondered if he felt so self-conscious of his crossed eyes that he avoided making eye contact with strangers. Had he been ridiculed so much that he didn’t dare risk contact again? I didn’t know, but it broke my heart just thinking about it.

I thought of how easy it should be to say a kind word or do some small kindness for another person. How little such things cost. I felt overwhelmed by the sadness of a world where there was so much hurt.

As I drove home, I realized how blessed my life was.  I gave a silent prayer of gratitude for all the joys in my life, for the friends who supported me, for the loved that healed me, for the natural beauty all around me, and most of all, for the Spirit of God that lived in my heart and made it possible for me to see one man’s pain.  I promised myself that with the help of my Higher Power I would never again let slip an opportunity to share Divine Love. No, not while I could still smile, not while I could still think of something friendly to say.

Then, the God who lives in, through and as me smiled, and the pain in my heart eased a little as I seemed to hear these words: “Thus, shall you be saved.”

And just like that, the day was grumpy no longer.

Rev. Jean DeBarbieris


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