Yesterday I made a quick run to the grocery store a mile down the road, an entire world away. Instead of the fresh, organic, independent brand, small batch, sexy imported or even sexier locally produced and lovingly packaged food that I like to get at the Food CoOp, Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods, most everything there is highly processed, high fructose corn syrup-laced, partially hydrogenated palm kernal oil based, 2-for-1, and not vibrant, healthy or delicious-looking in the least. They didn’t have the raw peanuts I needed for mom’s peanut brittle and were all out of lemons. Nothing organic to be seen. No bulk spices or soy candles or chipotle-flavored anything. I have shopped here fewer times than I have fingers in the 35 years I’ve lived in Ypsilanti.
Every single one of my fellow shoppers had weary faces that look like life had dealt them one shitty hand of cards after another and it’s all they could do to stay at the table, stay in the game, not fold.
While a tall young cashier wearing my favorite shade of blue with luminous eyes and bad teeth was processing my purchases, I felt a little nudge to ask him how his day was going. He paused.
“Not the best.”
“What’s going on? Did something shitty happen or are you just over it today?”
“Kind of a little of both. My brother got picked up this morning and is looking at 2-5 years.”
We talked about life behind bars and how it sucks that this is happening right before Christmas and how it sucks even more that it was his aunt who called the police on him.
As I was getting ready to leave, I got another poke. “Offer him a hug.”
“I’m a really great hugger – would you like a hug?”
He paused, propriety warring with need.
He held up his hands.
“I would, but then I’d have to wash my hands again.”
I nodded in understanding, and giving him my kindest, warmest look, I told him to hang in there and that I was so sorry this was happening and I wished I could fix it. He thanked me and I headed out to my car.
As I was loading my groceries, I happened to look toward the store. My cashier had put on his coat and was walking across the salt-stained, icy, wet asphalt toward me.
“I changed my mind about that hug.” Shy grin.
I opened my arms, stood on my tippy toes and hugged him for all I was worth.
We talked some more and exchanged names.
Before I left, I gave him one of my very best hugs, held him tight for an extra few moments and whispered a prayer in his ear.
When I let go, both of our eyes were glistening with tears and his cheeks were bright pink.
He gave me a soft smile before beginning to roundup stranded shopping carts and push them back toward the store.
I got in my car and drove home, heart overflowing.
💄That was easy. Really easy. No special skills required.
We can all do this.
Pre-Christmas homework for us all: pay attention to urges of kindness and act on them. Our world needs it so des💄