I got an attitude adjustment today at Ralphs. Like lots of other busy people, I waited until the last minute to buy my turkey and other “Thanksgiving food.” My mind was onÂ myÂ shopping list and my goal to get out of the market in 20 minutes, tops. When I’mÂ focused like this, I’m in “Shirley world” and lots of times I don’t even notice the people around me.
Turning into aisle two, (breads and spreads) I couldn’t help but notice other people! TheÂ aisle was jam-packed with shopping carts andÂ Â other shoppers like me vying for front row to the rack of sourdough buns.Â No one was talking but everyone was sending a message to each other through “supermarket speak.” Supermarket speak is when you use passive/aggressive body language like huffing and puffing, tapping your toes, rolling your eyes to signal to someone to hurry up and move out of your way, instead of saying it.
I finally pushed through and found the source of the traffic jam. There was an older woman in a wheelchair, parked in front of the Hawaiian breadÂ that was searching the racks for her coupon item. She had a lot of coupons and looked very confused and frustrated. I was frustrated too, but for other reasons, like for waiting around so long.
Â It took me a little while to find my favorite bread so I lingered thereÂ long enough to catchÂ a conversation between this older woman and another shopper who just turned into the aisle. The young shopper had a smile on her face and didn’t seem to be alarmed by the bottleneck traffic. Unlike most of us, she quickly spoke and addressed the problem.
“I see you have some coupons. Do you need any help finding anything?”
“Oh, thank you, do you work here?”
“No, I’mÂ just a shopperÂ like you”
Â I’ve been here for 10 minutes looking for the whole -wheat sourdough bread. I just don’t see it!”
“Here it is, it’s on the top shelf. How many do you want?”
“I’ll take two.Â I guess the Â clerks must have moved them to make room for the Thanksgiving dinner buns. Thanks so much, you saved me a lot of time.”
“No problem, enjoy your Thanksgiving!”
“You too,” the older woman offered, sporting a new, relaxed expression and huge smile as she rolled away.
The act of kindness and consideration displayed by the young shopper in that transient gesture woke me up from my self-centered slumber. At that moment, I realized that not only was the old woman in the wheelchair not to blame for the traffic jam, but all of us “able-bodied, supermarket-speaking people” were! How simple it would have been for one of us offer to help her, but our own self-absorptionÂ paralyzed Â us form reaching out and helping this woman! I was even standing an arms-length away fromÂ the breadÂ she was looking for! Â I felt ashamed.
I got my Thanksgiving food at the market, alright, but I also came away with aÂ valuable lesson.Â Â I always thought of Thanksgiving as a holiday to “give thanks forÂ all that I have.” Me, me, me!Â Â The bread incidentÂ openned my eyes to the fact that the “ability to give” is what I should be thankful for, not the other way around. As far as I’m concerned, seeing it any other way makes Thanksgiving just another high calorie, sleep-inducing meal thatÂ I canÂ do without.