Sunday, February 21, 2010

Lessons From the Checkout Line

There are moments in my life where my lack of patience tends to come back and bite me in the backside. Such as yesterday. In the checkout line of the local grocery store.

I had just stopped to pick up a few things after a long hike along the river and I was anxious to get home and download the 100 plus pictures I'd taken. As I unloaded my cart the checker began chatting with the lady in front of me.

"Oh, great. Of course I pick the shortest line and get the slowest checker because she has to chat." I thought to myself. "Why don't they train the checkers to just check and keep the chit-chat to 'hi' and 'have a good day'."

Normally I'm not this big of a jerk in the check-out line, but I had more important things to do. Or so I thought.

Finally, it was my turn and as 'Cathy' began ringing up my items, I forced a smile and said the obligatory, "how are you today?" As she picked up a bottle of wine she said, "I see this one come through a lot. I'm going to try this one."

"Yeah, I like the blends and this is a really good one," I replied.

"I've been going to different wineries with my husband. Next week I'm taking him to the Aquarium in Monterey and we are going to visit some wineries down there. I want him to see the Aquarium before he dies. I hear it's something to see and after all these years together we deserve a big trip."

"He's got cancer and it won't be long now. I don't have many tears left to cry, especially after yesterday and gettin' to work all red-eyed and what not. He says I don't need to take him down to Monterey but I want him to see the Aquarium. And I want to take him to Bubba Gumps. Did you know they have a Bubba Gumps there?"

Yes, I know there's a Bubba Gumps down on Cannery Row. And I also know, as 'Cathy' continues talking why I ended up in her line.

Because, I needed a reminder that maybe people like 'Cathy' need people like me to just listen for a few minutes. I don't know anything about her or her husband, their life together, any children they may have had, places they've been or homes they've made their own. What I do know is that a woman is about to lose her life long partner and it's not something she's looking forward to. God could not have given me a bigger dose of humble pie than the one I'd just eaten.

As I looked Cathy in the eyes and we said our parting pleasantries, I walked away thinking how ironic it was that less than an hour prior to standing in Cathy's line, I'd been photographing a pair of Canadian geese who were standing on some rocks in the middle of the river. If you know anything about Canadian geese it's that when they reach about two years of age, they find a mate and stay with each other for life.

Cathy and her husband are staying with each other, for the rest of his life.


katdish said...

Oh, wow...

Humble pie indeed. Beautiful post, Annie. Dang...

Ginny (MAD21) said...

It's important when we are in a hurry or have our own agenda not to forget the people who come into our paths. I have to remind myself of that all the time.

I had a similar thing happen to me this week. I had just gone grocery shopping and had just finished loading it all into my car. A friend of mine walked up and we started chatting. The next thing we knew, a guy walked up to us who was obviously living in hard times (to say the least).

This gentleman stood talking to us for more than five minutes. It was a little uncomfortable, but I kept telling myself this was a man who obviously needed to be heard. So my friend and I waited patiently for him to be done and then we politely excused ourselves.

After he walked away my friend looked at me and expressed how weird that was. I just simply said, "everyone has a story, I guess he needed someone to listen to his."

Matt @ The Church of No People said...

Yeah, it seems like every time I start to be a jerk in my head, I totally get smacked by something like that!

Marni said...

As if I wasn't already weepy today...

But this was a blessing to read. Life is short. Love them while you have them.

Thanks Annie.

Helen said...

Patience is so hard sometimes. But it is true. We don't know what strangers are going through, and kindness from a stranger can mean more than we understand at the time.

D. K. Stangeland said...

Happens every time doesn't it? Just when we thing we're the most important thing in the world we learn differently. That God, he's a real funny guy.

Candace Jean July 16 said...

Ouch. But how inviting you must have been for her to open up to you. Yes, humble pie. But sometimes it only takes a bite, we choke it down, and remember why we're here - for each other.