I was standing there with my finger bleeding, having a silent chat with the Household Management Fairy. “You can do it,” I insisted, imagining Disney’s finest flying over our roof, waving a sparkling wand and delivering magic.
On a winter-ugly Sunday night at suppertime, it was comforting to picture a roast and vegetables in the oven, a salad in the fridge, a pie cooling on the counter and fresh rolls in a basket on the dining room table. I could almost feel the warm glow of a Martha Stewart-style triumph.
Really? It was the hot, germy breath of somebody coughing over my shoulder. In the grocery store at closing time, the guy behind me had a sneeze that wouldn’t quit. Along with some of the others in the last-minute crowd, he was on the wrong side of cranky. There was grousing and harrumphing as people with full baskets and grocery carts waited…and waited for their turns at the only checkout counter that was open.
I was seventh in line and five more people were behind me. We stood sheep-like, gazing out the plate-glass window at the bleak dark and cars blanketed in white. It was snowing heavily and everybody in the place was antsy, wanting to get home.
When the cashier, a high school kid with blue-streaked hair, called for a price check, there was a collective groan.
A little boy in a wet snowsuit started to howl because he wanted out of the cart and I set down my basket, all too aware of the boxes and packaged food I had scooped up hurriedly. Quinoa? Kale? Organic beets and kefir? Nope. Instead, it was a “mother lode” of dinner-fail insecurity. Heck, I was too busy imagining a miracle to remember to get bandages (for the finger I cut when I got too close to the kitchen).
However the lady at the front of the line did catch my eye. She had a dark coat, hair streaked with grey and an overflowing cart. Item after item was unloaded onto the conveyor belt: a 10-pound bag of potatoes, a five-pound bag of carrots, a jumbo box cereal, milk, apples, toilet paper, peanut butter, bread, eggs, onions. It was all the stuff of a family and there was lots of it.
As the teen rang each item through, the little boy continued to fuss, the guy behind me had a coughing fit and a voice at the back uttered something about “speaking to the manager about this.”
At the front, the mother’s grocery cart was eventually emptied but she was still at the cash and the line wasn’t moving. As the crowd shifted and people muttered, I could see her root frantically through her purse and pockets. She didn’t have enough money. We watched, sheep-like, as this flustered mom rechecked her purse and apologized repeatedly. Eventually, she scrounged up enough coins to pay the bill.
The next time, I will do better.
I’m not talking about cooking, I’m talking about compassion. Next time, hopefully, I will forget about guilt and remember, instead, to get out my wallet and help a mom in need. As my friend Sharon DeVellis mentioned in a recent post, “We All Have [Stuff] Going On.” Who couldn’t use a break, a hand up or a little more consideration?
In reality, every act of kindness delivers a bit of magic that is way better than pie or quinoa. No wand is required, only a choice. It’s Kindness Week in Ottawa. Let’s celebrate it—wherever we are—by choosing to be kind.