After days of avoiding the supermarket, I realized I needed to finally get out there today. I got in my car and for the first time really thought about this experience of going food shopping. Should I go now? Will it be crowded? Am I putting my family at risk? Somehow just being out in public has given many of us an anxiety like no other. Social distancing, face masks, police out on the streets. Things are not normal, and we don't know when life as we know it will resume....
As I pulled up to the store, I saw the guard and yellow tape outside which was indicating where you can enter, and where you need to leave. They were only letting in a certain number of limited customers at a time to avoid overcrowding. When I entered the store there was a large sign indicating how much you can take of which items. There was red tape on the ground indicating how close you could stand next to one another on line.
However out of all of these bizarre and somewhat frightening measures, there was one thing that stuck in my mind and continues to bring me real joy after this experience:
There is a young man that works on the check out line... I recognize him. Today however, he is sitting behind glass. He has been there at least a few years. I see him all the time. I never really thought too much about him... who he is, where he is from. He typically had an emotionless look on his face every time, as I probably did while doing my shopping. Going through the routine of scanning my items was what he did, and I would bag them simultaneously. On a normal day, he would finish scanning, take my credit card, give me my receipt and off I would go.
Today however, it was different. He spoke with me. He gave me the list of the new rules of the store. He expressed his concern that I could only get 1 can of tomato sauce and not 2. He apologized for this inconvenience. He made jokes about how he needs a vacation very badly. He helped me with my bags. I thanked him for his service. I told him how hard it must be to do this every day and deal with this situation. I asked that he stays positive and healthy. He smiled. I smiled. We connected.
Why am I touched by this small interaction? We can be grateful for these small tasks and these people that make them possible everyday. We are usually so busy and in our heads we let these small opportunities of connection in many cases pass right by.
For the grocery store worker, his job has taken on new meaning in spite of this new tragedy. More proof that when we work with a sense of purpose, it makes all the difference. Suddenly, this person was not just checking groceries, he was enabling our survival. I could feel his commitment, engagement and love.
Let us take these reminders into the future. One day the Corona virus will hopefully be eradicated, but hopefully my grocery worker will still be there.....still hopefully working with that continued sense of purpose. I will always remember this moment, and continue to give him my attention, smile and gratitude.