So, with a menu laid out in order for us not to have to order in from restaurants three or four times this week (we will just let last week go…), on a bright beautiful Autumn afternoon I made my trip to the grocery store again. By the way, when I say it’s beautiful out, that comes with no conditions. I would lay this week’s weather in North Dakota up against anywhere else in the nation. After a hard freeze on Sunday, the lows this week will be in the upper 40s, and the highs in the mid to upper 70s! Cheri reminded me that a year ago we were digging out from a pretty significant snowstorm, so I’ll take mid-70s…
Anyway, I’m not a big fan of shopping in general, and not grocery shopping in particular lately. Still, I decided to go with a different attitude and intentionally see the world of Hornbachers Grocery through a different lens. Entering the store, I noticed again how quiet the place is. It’s as if masks became silencers to the shoppers, who went from spot to spot, carefully avoiding standing near another human. The shelves were mostly full, except I’m still trying to figure out what the deal is in an utter lack of chicken gumbo soup, and cream of tartar. Week after week, those slots are empty, as though somewhere, people have hoarded vast supplies of soup cans and little containers of cream of tartar. Every time I go to the store, I still check on the supplies, and every time, I turn away with a tear in my eye, sad that once again this week, Cheri’s Sloppy Joe recipe will have to contend with no gumbo.
Another thing I have noticed is that the prices on plain normal food has gone way up. There’s no reason that I can find, but it just seems high, and I wonder if this too will be the “new normal” that everyone talks about, or if sometime, we will see a return to a decent priced past. I did make the decision that this shopping trip would be the time for stocking up on raw Spanish peanuts in anticipation of peanut brittle season. Please notice, anyone who saw me buying the twenty bags of peanuts – I am not hoarding them. They all will be necessary to try to meet the demand of family and friends, and even the father of the gal who cuts my hair. She gave him some, and his reaction was, “Where can I buy this?” The 20 bags will produce 20 pounds. That should get us through Christmas.
As I made my way from one end of the store to the other, buying essential things like Ritz crackers and Cool Whip, I started looking at the other shoppers, and realized I hadn’t seen a full face in the store in quite some time. On a whim, I began to imagine what people looked like under their masks, and it quickly became evident that I was in the store with a huge group of movie stars, political figures and even some historical persons. I’m sure, for instance, that I went past Walter Pigeon as he pondered buying some flavored water. Marco Rubio was looking at the pork chops, and I think maybe Sandra Bullock was stocking up on California Kitchen pizzas – the chicken kind. Now, I’m not at all sure what they were doing in Fargo, North Dakota, but maybe they heard how nice the weather was… it was an entertaining game, at least.
When I come to the checkout lines, with a basket overflowing with essential purchases, like spicy V-8 juice, it’s always a bit of a game of chance, as I have a split second to decide whether the lane I’m about to get in has the least amount of groceries in other carts, and who might be checking my groceries out. The thing about Hornbachers is that you can’t see the other lanes, and how full or empty they are, so it’s really a gamble. I came to one lane at the very instant another cart pushed by a woman came. We both nodded each other to go ahead, but then, as quickly, she turned and moved her cart down to another lane. Suddenly I felt buyers remorse, because the cart in front of mine was still pretty loaded up with stuff. On top of that, I recognized the checker. She was 75 years old, and… deliberate. That is to say, she wasn’t one to quickly shoot all sorts of cans and packages by the scanner. No. This was going to be done right, and if that meant done slowly, so be it. By that time, I was locked in, as someone pulled their cart in behind me, so I just had to go along for the ride.
When my turn came, I stepped around to my side of the counter, and then I saw her heading toward my groceries. You see – and I commend Hornbachers for doing this – the store has made an effort of providing employment to folks in our community who otherwise would not be hired anywhere, due to the challenges they face developmentally and otherwise. It’s always interesting to see who I might get to bag my goods. It might be the fellow who is probably 6’5”, who will tell me what he did this past weekend, in pretty good detail. Or it might be the young guy with the cheesy black moustache, who always inquires how I’m doing, and when I ask the same question back to him, he will say, “Today, I am truly blessed, and am excited that I can work and meet people, and do what I can to make our world a nicer place…” He always humbles me with that attitude. Before the pandemic, the interchange also would include doing a fist bump, but that’s been nixed for now.
Yesterday, however, the one that chose me to bag my groceries was a little gal, with stringy red hair, and very thick glasses, and a flat affect in her facial features. For more than five years, I have tried to start up a conversation with her, and have been basically ignored – or maybe she just doesn’t like to talk. Anyway, the other aspect of her work is that she makes the one checking out my groceries look like Mario Andretti taking the far turn. I would guess it took as long to go through checkout as it did to find the groceries in the store. I had to become intentionally… patient. But since I’m retired, there was no where I needed to be except right there.
I could see the checker was feeding the same types of foods down the conveyor to the little gal so that she wouldn’t have to decide what went where. The only main trouble, besides the amount of time spent, was that I had a lot of groceries, and it didn’t take long before the bags at the end started filling up the area. Suddenly, the 75 year old checker stopped what she was doing, and walked down to the end of the station, where things were getting pretty jammed up. I thought to myself that I was about to see something mean happen, in which the little gal would be the victim.
Instead, I encountered Grace. The checker walked to the end, and spoke in the sweetest voice possible, and gently explained that the bagger needed to move the bags over to another area on the machine, so things wouldn’t get to be a mess. She then helped her move the bags, make the room, and then she walked back and started checking the food again. It was really marvelous to see that were something hurtful could have happened, instead, something love-ly occurred.
We all finally finished the checking marathon, and then came the process of loading the cart back up with the bags. Even then, the checker came and helped – not take over, but help, and with perhaps a little bit of compression to the bread, we made it.
Like I have for five years, after everything was in the cart, I said to the little gal, “Thanks a bunch.” Then it happened. She looked up – not at me, but somewhere in the distance, and said quietly, “Thank you.” Again, the only reaction I can put to what I experienced was “humble.” Nothing she did was easy. Everything took concentration and all the mental effort she could muster. Yet, she also said thanks.
We live in a world that is often cruel. Remarks made by so many people cut like knives, or wound deeply. Some actions are only mean, and unnecessary, and multitudes of folks end up at the end of the day feeling just beat up. That’s not who we are, or how we were created. In the image of God, our first response must be kindness, even if sometimes justice needs to happen as well. But we are so closer to living an intentionally holy life when Love is the first foot forward, and support and care are the next steps. Nothing is lost, and everything is gained as we move through life this way. It almost makes going to the grocery store something to remember, after all.
Word for the day: perfidious. Pronounced per-FID-ee-us, the word is what it sounds like. It means “faithlessness,” or “treachery.” Judas was perfidious. The word, however, is even more interesting than the definition. When you break it down in its Latin roots, the noun is actually “perfidy,” and the Latin in “perfidia.” However, the word is a collapse of a phrase into one smashed up word. The Latin phrase is “per fidem decipere,” which is translated, “deceive through trustingness.” However – and this is the beauty of Latin – since the endings of the word tell us where it would fit in an English setting (fidem is the accusative or predicate part of the sentence – the object, if you will), the Latin words strictly translated would be “through faith, to deceive.” So, you begin with the high moral, hoped for action – faith, and then with a comma, the worst that can be comes out. A perfidious person relies on the good and hoped for bearing of others to then fool or undercut or show treachery. Through faith – deceive. It’s a terrible word, but perfect in its meaning.
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.