I hate the grocery store, it’s exhausting. Yet I suck it up and make the trek on a semi-regular basis, albeit grudgingly. Grocery shopping belongs in the same category as bus travel, a mind-numbing, time-consuming inconvenience.
On this particular morning, however, the grocery store was atypically restorative. As I scanned my purchases at the check out counter, a stranger presented me with a gorgeous bouquet of fresh flowers. She simply appeared beside me, extended the bouquet, smiled, and said, ‘these are for you.’ It caught me off guard and I was utterly tongue-tied for a response. Confused, too.
Did I look disheartened and gloomy or was it just my usual crabby, put upon expression? Well, hard to know without a mirror, either was a possibility. I was in a grocery store, after all, an environment utterly devoid of happiness.
My eyes flew from flowers to face to flowers to face as I struggled to think of something appropriate to say. Something witty like ‘thank you’ would’ve been perfect, but the old bean was on lockdown. I stuttered; I stammered; I squirmed. The woman finally got bored and left me standing with an armload of flowers, my mouth opening and closing like a faulty garage door.
It was a profound moment, both sad and hopeful. Sad in the sense that kindness has become so rare in this battered, deeply divided country. A wary indifference is our usual attitude these days, but rancor and name-calling have gained considerable popularity. At the same time, it was hopeful because this frail, little woman refused to surrender; she was fighting the prevailing hostility with uncommon graciousness. And I wasn’t just speechless, I was awestruck.
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