Jeanette’s husband caught my eye on aisle four, just passed the baked goods. I had no business even walking down that aisle leading to the altar to carbs, but these things happen. This man was focused, careful and intent on filling his basket with all that was on a hand-written list.
Sometime later our baskets passed again near the back of the store surrounded by valentine’s candy and paper goods. And I wonder why I so often stop in for a few items and walk out with an overflowing cart of so much more than I originally intended?
Finally, I made aim to pay and leave. There were many self-check-out stands available, only two checkers working today with a store full of people. My long day impressed upon me the need to push the easy button, and let a qualified and trained individual tally my total and bag my groceries. This choice would be costly. I got settled in with my phone in hand, and prepared to scroll my wait time away
Every minute or so I would check to see how the customers in front of me were moving forward until it came down to just one woman in front of me. This lady stood between me and the freedom of the parking lot. I thought she was done…checked-out and leaving. I hurdled forward only to find that she had turned around and come back. Despite the fact that I had begun to occupy the space she had spent so much time in. She was not dissuaded by my presence but instead focused on Kathryn, the checker.
“I just want to thank you for all you did to help me. You were so kind, and I wasn’t sure how to do that thing, but you…” Her words went on, but my focus drifted. My annoyance mushroomed.
Other people had joined the line behind me, but when they saw what was going on just ahead of me, one by one they gave up. Half my basket was now spread widely across Kathryn conveyer belt. To turn back now seemed impossible. I took a deep breath and went back to focusing on my phone. Scroll, look up, scroll, look up with annoyance, scroll.
As soon as the lady ahead left for the second time, Kathryn looked over to me and smiled warmly. “How are you today?” She paused ever so slightly as she lifted my can of green beans to the scanner, all the while gazing directly into my eyes. A deliberate pause invited a real answer.
We exchanged a few personal pieces of information. Her job history, my own experience years ago as a checker, and her recent celebration of two decades spent with her current employer all flowed out. As she was hefting each well packed bag into my arms, I got more than just my groceries.
“Did you hear about Jeanette?” He sat behind us in his electric buggy with his World War II baseball cap askew over a sad look of resignation.
Kathryn expressed her curiosity and that gave him a green light to pour out his story.
Evidently his wife had fallen and broken her hip. He went on to explain that at 94 years old he was her sole caregiver, and they had no one to help. “Could you pray for her?”
I stood by watching this exchange, all the while Kathryn finished bagging my items.
“I’ll pray for your wife. I’m so sorry.” My comment felt like a brash interruption to a sacred exchange for these two , and yet I felt compelled to offer salve to this weary pilgrim.”
“Semineau is the name, if you remember that one. We’re from New Orleans. We came here after we lost everything in Katrina.”
Words escaped me. How does one greet such a burden of loss?
My fussing about waiting fell away as I saw all these two were carrying. One an exhausted caregiver, and the other a retail missionary. How small my concerns seemed in light of all that had been revealed!
Would you join me this week in praying for Jeanette and for her husband, a real hero, and a retail store missionary called Kathryn.