I was halfway home when I realized what had just happened. My eyes flew open and I gasped in the same sort of panic you feel when you oversleep on an important day. My bag. My entire bag full of groceries. I was so preoccupied watching two strangers arguing in the parking lot at Sprouts, that between that and buckling in my little guys, I totally forgot to put my bag into the car.
Now, let me say, it is a very rare event that I have only one bag of groceries to contend with, especially during the week of Thanksgiving. I’m not going to tell you how much I spent on groceries this week, but I promise it’s a number that would knock your socks off. And the only reason I tell you that is to reinforce the point that I never have just one bag of groceries. Ever. But this was a very important bag that required a special trip to my favorite store, Sprouts. I’ve become something of a deli snob over the past year or two and I can’t eat deli meat from just anywhere. Hubs forgot this very important fact when he went grocery shopping last, so, long story short, I really, really needed this particular deli meat (especially with family coming into town to stay with us and picnics to pack for the day after Thanksgiving). I had big plans for this deli meat. Not important to most people, but on this day at this time, very important to me. After an entire morning of running errands, my trip to Sprouts had been my final stop. We had made it through brilliantly. The boys were exceptionally happy and well-behaved. I had checked everything off the list, and even made the comment to Dallin as we were leaving the store, “Let the holidays begin! Game ON.”
But my hopes of a perfect morning had been dashed when, while driving down Greenfield Road, I realized I had just spent X amount of dollars on a bag of deli meat that was now sitting in the parking lot at Sprouts, about 4 miles behind me. My hopes were even more dashed when I went back to the store and asked if anyone had returned said bag. The employees at Sprouts were all very nice and went out of their way to help me. Two young men went outside to canvas the parking lot. The cashiers all asked one another if anything had been returned. The manager got involved, and all came back with the same “I’m so sorry, Ma’am” expression. So, I walked dejectedly back to the deli section.”Hi there! Didn’t I just help you a few minutes ago?” Yeah, yeah…same order please.
Then things went from bad to worse. You see, it was now pushing 1:00. My little trooper Dallin was getting hungry, and my sweet little Jack was tired. And those two ingredients usually spell disaster in a grocery store.
So there we were. Waiting in a line that had grown tenfold since I was there 20 minutes ago, all three of us on the verge of tears. I just wanted to get home and start making the blasted pies I had planned on making that afternoon. Precious time was ticking away. I was not exclaiming “Game ON!” in the face of the holidays anymore. Suddenly they seemed like a burden.
But something kept coming to me in the back of my mind.
“There is a reason this is happening. There is a lesson here.”
A Relief Society lesson a few weeks ago, combined with two very great talks given in church recently had had me thinking about gratitude. Gratitude not only when things are easy, but gratitude when things are tough. And trust me, I know that an extra trip to the deli counter at Sprouts doesn’t even come close to qualifying as “tough”, but…bear with me. Anything feels tough when a screaming two-year-old is added in. Gratitude is a state of mind that can occur under any circumstance. We only have to change our perspective to see it.
So I began looking for the lesson. Little did I know I was seconds away from finding it.
It was finally my turn to be rung up by the cashier, who had obviously had a long day already, too. I just had to ask one last time.
“Hey, I was in here just a few minutes ago. Do you know if there were any grocery bags returned from the parking lot?”
“Is your name Kim?”
“Yes. Did someone find it?”
“No, I’m so sorry. My manager came by and told us to keep an eye out for it though. I’m really sorry, Ma’am. What was in it?”
“It was just one bag. Just some deli meat.” At this point I motioned to the large amount of deli meat sitting on her conveyor belt, and shook my head and shrugged my shoulders as if to say, “Oh well…”.
She pulled the meat over and put it in a bag. “Here you go,” she said. She smiled at me with the warmest smile, and so help me, her eyes actually twinkled. She wasn’t charging me a single cent.
“Oh no, I couldn’t,” I immediately responded. I had every intention of paying for that meat. It was my silly mistake. There was no reason I shouldn’t pay for it.
“Oh yes you can.” She looked at me, then at my two boys. Jack was now fast asleep on my shoulder, and Dallin had actually quieted down, but his eyes were still red and his chubby little cheeks were tear-stained.
This woman. She was showing me a kindness.
It was such a small moment, but I hesitated and looked at her right in the eyes. I wanted her to know how much it meant to me. Not the free meat. But the kindness.
It was so small! A speck on the seashore, maybe. But in that 2 seconds, her heart and my heart connected briefly and felt something good. She had the opportunity to do something kind for a frazzled mom. And you could see it lift her. It elevated her. That small kindness made her day better.
I, on the other hand, had the opportunity to receive kindness. It softened my heart and made me appreciate what it means to be a part of the fabric of humanity. It made me actually hope that somehow, someone who really needed it had found my bag of deli meat in the parking lot. And if I had the day to do over again, I would have done it exactly the same way. I wouldn’t change a thing. In the middle of the day on a Tuesday, I had simply felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude. In a season where charity and service and gratitude, can sometimes feel like stressful, burdensome work, I had received a small gift that had changed my perspective.
This is it, Kim. This is the lesson.
Kindness is often small, usually quiet, and many times unnoticed. But kindness touches hearts. And that is what is important.
And this time, as we left the store, with a small smile on my face, I said again (only this time to no one in particular….), “Let the holidays begin. GAME ON.”