I carefully placed my coupons on top of my purse as I pushed my cart through the store. My list seemed longer than normal. The uneasy feelings were always the same. I would begin to feel scared in the parking lot and by the time I made it to the cashier with my groceries, my anxiety about spending too much of the family budget would be at an all time high. It was a torture session I endured every week. It wasn’t that the money was not there. It was my false belief that I was living in scarcity.
On this particular day, I found myself getting angry about the fact that I was going through this again. I wanted to rid myself of it. As I grabbed cans of generic items, I began to count my blessings. I had a house. I had a bed. I never was short on food. My bills were all paid. And just to prove to myself that my thinking was out of line, I decided to start placing things in my cart that were not on my list with the full intention of giving it all away to the local food shelf.
I began to feel my mood shift as I joyfully went along picking and choosing products with the sole intention of blessing others. My trip had now taken on a new meaning that took the attention off of my worries and replaced them with the idea of helping someone else.
While I stood in the checkout line, I noticed the couple in front of me. They had a rather large order for themselves and were struggling to keep two small children occupied. The husband stood at the end of the belt slowly bagging up their purchases as his wife handed over food stamps.
“Some of these items are not eligible,” the cashier said to the woman.
“Oh. Which ones?”
I found myself tuning it out and started glancing at the magazine covers around me. When it was my turn to move up, I saw that the situation must have been resolved.
She began sliding my items over the sensor and sending them down the belt next to the family ahead of me. They were still in the midst of getting their groceries into the cart. I was trying to stay calm, and often at this stage, I would ‘zone’ out to block out the ‘beep’ ‘beep’ ‘beep’ of the racking up of a bill.
“Excuse me,” I said to the couple as I wheeled my cart by them. For a few moments, I was able to put items into bags until the cashier said,
“I have your total.”
I left my cart unattended to pay. Once I was done, the family of four had departed so I had more room to finish up my task.
When I arrived home, I began unloading my purchases onto the kitchen table. I realized I had not segregated out my donations. As I looked through what I had spread out on the table and the counter, I could not locate what I was looking for.
I walked back out to my car to see if anything had been accidentally left in the trunk. I found that I had removed everything. I took a closer look and discovered that not only had my food shelf items gone missing but a couple other things were not to be found as well. An inexpensive package of toothpaste and a much needed bottle of cheap toilet bowl cleaner were among the missing.
As I stood puzzled wondering what had happened, the family of four flashed through my mind. I had left my groceries next to their belt with just enough time for either adult to take what he or she might need to steal.
Grabbing my receipt and car keys I went back to the store to replace the stolen merchandise that I needed.
By the time I returned, the store was nearly empty but the same cashier was working the same lane.
“I think the people ahead of me took some items that didn’t belong to them.”
“Were they paying with food stamps?”
“Yes,” she said recalling the moment.
“Did they have trouble paying?”
“I have items missing.”
“Did they do the five finger discount?”
“Well, I think they decided to take what was mine and made it theirs. The funny thing is that they took most of the items I was going to give away to the food shelf.”
There was an absolute moment of silence until she and I started laughing.
“So, they stole food shelf items before I could donate them. They just saved me a trip.” This brought us to another round of laughter that made our eyes well up with tears.
I do not condone thievery, and I wish to this day that I would have paid attention to what was going on around me. Yet, at the same time, I thought how pitiful it was that someone had to nab and grab to just get by in life. And, somehow, I had mentally brought myself to the level of thinking that I was living in poverty. Far from it. I discovered that I was in a class much different than what I was envisioning over my life.
In times when I have feared the worst or imagined some catastrophe coming upon me, I often hear that still small voice whisper to me. And, if I slow down, breath, and listen, I am drawn in by a peace that is free for all.