Monday, August 10, 2009

Lessons Learned In Limbo

Long ago I came to the conclusion that the grocery store is not one of my favorite places. I usually try to get in, get the stuff, get in the car, get home, and get on with the rest of my life. Because who has time to meander meditatively through the dairy department when your to-do list is five times longer than your grocery list?

But during this transitional, limbo-esque period of life, my grocery store trips have now become 43.6% less frantic than they were before. (Don't you just love statistics that are pulled right out of thin air?)

They have become less frantic mainly because I've been making some changes to my Grocery Store Behavior. I've started to stroll instead of sprint. I have taken the time to stop and peruse new foods that I never noticed before. I have even caught myself humming (yes, humming!) as I shopped.

I've also become a sort of "stealth shopper," trying to train myself to be aware of people that I can stealthily be a blessing to.

There are a lot of elderly people at grocery stores and with some of them, I get the feeling that their grocery store outing is one of the highlights of their week. I see the look of loneliness on their countenances and when they catch my eye I feel like they are silently asking, "Do you see me? Will you speak to me?"

And when a little wrinkled and beautiful lady asks me, "Dearie, can you reach the Raisin Bran on the top shelf?" I think she might really be asking, "Do you have an extra moment just to notice me?"

In this new challenge to myself to really see the people around me, I take the time to not only reach the cereal for her but to also stand still for a minute and talk about the price of eggs. Or the hot weather. Or whatever. The words aren't important. The fact that someone is taking the time to say the words, is.

Another aspect of my stealthy commitment to be a grocery store blessing takes place at the check out area. If I have a whole cart load of things and the person behind me has just four or five things I'll say, "Would you like to go in front of me?"

It is almost comical to see the range of reactions that cross their face.

First, I see shock. Then disbelief. Then surprise. Then finally, acceptance.

They say, "Really? You really mean it?"

Like I have just offered to buy them their own island, write them a check for a million dollars, and send them to the French Riviera for a month.

I wave a languid hand in their direction and say, "Yes, go on. I'm in no hurry."

They scuttle on in front of me and the whole time they're being checked out, they keep on casting anxious looks back at me, as I though I might suddenly change my mind and leap suddenly upon them, snatching their groceries away and shoving them to the back of the line where I will then call store security and have them arrested for cutting into line.

When their things are all checked out and they're reaching for their bag, they cast one last tremulous glance in my direction and say, "Thanks again, very much!" (Like they're still afraid I might change my mind.)

And I just have to laugh to myself because these are such small things to do! Grab a box of cereal for a person and take thirty extra seconds to chat. Let a person get ahead of you in line who is obviously hurried and hassled. No biggie!

I think that busyness is a disease with many symptoms, one of which is blindness. Busyness makes us blind to small things along the way, small acts of kindness in the grocery store, small ways of reaching out and making big differences to people who are carrying all sorts of unnameable, unspeakable burdens.

And believe me when I say that I am not writing these words so that I can preach at you. I am writing these words so that I can preach at me. I just happen to have a Masters Degree in the Art of Busyness. I have blown by so many people in my life it's not even funny. I have stood in line with my mountain of groceries and made a very deliberate point to not notice the person behind me with just three cans of soup.

Because if I let them go ahead of me, I might put myself behind schedule by two whole minutes! Two minutes, I tell you! How could this universe possibly continue to exist if I were to be delayed by two minutes?

I know that in a matter of time, I will be back to my "real life," back to all the hectic happenings that fill up the days and nights of a pastor's wife. But my hope is that I won't forget these lessons I learned in limbo, lessons I learned during this time when things weren't quite as frantic as usual.

And you know what? I believe that the day will come when I will be the person standing in line with three cans of soup and some munificent person in front of me with a mountain of groceries will say to me, "Would you like to go first?"

What goes around comes around.

That's just one of the lessons I learned in limbo.

23 Had Something To Say (Just click here!):

Vickie said...

Love this post!!!

With Erin gone, the rush is less pressing. Like you, I have chosen to go with the new pace and make something of it rather than bemoaning the fact that My prime rush motivation is irretrievably gone.

I think in Steve's business (not busyness), this is the idea of "Be Still."


Lizz said...

I have realized that so many people have no idea what it means to be polite and courteous. And then there are those that are shocked out of their socks when I am to them. Once at the post office I held the door open for this little old man as he wobbled and hobbled in. Another man came next (he was older than me but younger than the first man) and I just kept holding the door and said "Go ahead". He seriously stopped in his tracks and had the most confused look on his face! When he could find the words in him he said "that is unusual" or something to that end. I just smiled and said "not for me!"

Sue G said...

I'm not sure whether it is the gracious gift of letting others go first that confuses people or the simple fact that they are witnessing the act of someone choosing to be second. Someone who, in one simple gesture, says, "You are important, you matter."

We live in a world that has taught us that what matters is always being first, whether it is in line at the grocery store or on the top rung of office hierarchy. We have become so used to vying for position that the simple act of sublimation is lost.

In a world that is quickly changing, where pace and position are supreme and family and foundation are considered shaky, it would seem that we had better learn our priorities based on some Truth larger than the ones that are fleeting. One look at what we treasure most is quite revealing.

Perhaps we need to stop calling this progress and recognize that the principles we are quickly losing touch with are our only hope for progression in any form that truly matters.

And I think I sound a bit too much like Archie Bunker, so I will stop.

As always, Becky, your posts are quite thought provoking. Sometimes I bet you wish you hadn't provoked quite so much thought in me, huh?

René S said...

An older, wiser lady who taught a Moms' bible study when my children were preschoolers and life was just beginning to get busy, taught us that BUSY stood for Being Under Satan's Yoke. That has stuck with me over the years. Although with a 10yo and 7yo, we are very busy, I try to slow the pace as much as often. So glad you are able to appreciate the gift you have been given for a time.

Marysienka said...

Hmmm this made me think... Do you live in a "big" city? Because in the town I'm from, which is small, it's almost automatic to let someone with only a couple of items go before you. But here in "BigC", I have never, ever, seen it in 5 five years. Same thing for smiling or say saying hello to someone you see on the sidewalk. We always do that in SmallC, but here, I'm almost scared people will jump on me if I smile at them! In fact, I tried it several times, and never got a smile back. Most of the time, they just look in another direction.

The world is going way too fast...

Anyway, that was an interesting post :)

Renee who loves grocery stores!

Pam D said...

Sue G.. you could NEVER sound like Archie Bunker because you could NEVER allow yourself to mangle the English language that way. And Becky, what a wonderful post and important lesson to pass on. I love the part about the older people; someday, WE may well be the ones searching people's eyes for some sort of recognition that they really SEE us. As for the line thing, I am SO inconsistent, which probably plays havoc with any customer who recognizes me from trip to trip. Some days, I'm laid back and would let ANYONE go ahead of me. Other days (usually when I'm "busy" and have to be somewhere on time and am trying to stuff one little errand in), a person could be bleeding out an artery and be standing there with gauze and tape and I still would glare and point to the "10 item" line. *sigh* I'm the same way at 4 way stops; they can be a very stressful experience for anyone who is in the car with me. Thankfully, God wipes our slate clean and makes us new again. I just wish He didn't have to burn out so many erasers on me.
Loving your insight while hating your limbo.. but KNOWING that God's plan is better than ours...

Anonymous said...

Thanks Becky! These were wonderful words!


Anonymous said...

Sure wish your words could be published. So many more people need to hear what you say so well.

I'll be paying more attention in the grocery store...

Love, Deb

Beverly said...

Oh, it would be so nice to meet you in the grocery store! But since that's not likely, I'll offer a few people my place in line...thanks for some sweet life-lessons~

Jenny said...

Thank you for your thoughtful words :)


MaryH said...

It is amazing how startled people can become when you show them some courtesy, kindness or exchange a few words. Kind of a sad commentary on the world we are in - but a small number of us could begin to change it, don't you think? Great post, Becky - as Sue G said before - there is a BOOK in you!!!

Anonymous said...

A few years ago I started doing the same thing. This also included taking my next door neighbor, who didn't drive, to the store when she needed to go, not me.

Margie Miller

Catherine said...

Becky, you are truly a gem. How I wish you lived in our community. Whatever community gets your family is ever so lucky!

I really enjoyed that post!

Catherine said...

Also, I do not consider you in limbo. You are teaching and telling so much to so many.

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