It was time for a new adventure in this weird new life of no job, a quiet phone, and not one familiar soul (or place) within hundreds of miles.
The adventure? Grocery shopping in a new city.
Cool as a cucumber in my past life, I’d happily meet with CEOs and interview celebrities. Now? A mere trip to the grocery twisted my nerves in knots. Loose knots, but knots nonetheless.
Oh, how life’s changes can knock us flat before we bounce back.
One oft’ unappreciated comfort of being in one place for a long time? You know the location of everything in the grocery store. You’re in. You’re out. Hubber’s belly is happy. And the to-do list is complete.
So for this formerly focused, time-is-of-the-essence and productivity-is-the-only-option kinda’ gal? Getting groceries in a new place would’ve gladly been traded for a root canal.
Like, seriously. At least you get novocaine to numb the experience.
Unfortunately, my pearlies didn’t need a root canal and the cupboards were, indeed, empty as we’d just moved across the country. This means no liquids made the trip, nor did any food, except for a Santa-sized sack of Science Diet™ for my 4-legged BFF.
So, into the store I went, feeling self-conscious as a 16-year-old on her first date.
Could everyone tell I was new? Could they see I had no idea where I was going? Did they notice I’d trekked across the same aisles time and time again in search of the frozen noodles?!
In reality, I knew no one gave a darn. But inner anxiety painted bewildered angst on my face. And I think my eyes began to cross.
Then, to add insult to injury, a fellow shopper made an ungraceful beeline for my back. Turns out she thought I was her daughter. Until I turned around, that is. Her reaction said she didn’t like my face. Why? I wasn’t her daughter. Or, maybe it was the labyrinth of lasers now blasting from my freaked-out, spasming eyes.
She was either embarrassed or frightened (can you blame her?) for attacking someone outside of her kin. She didn’t apologize, but scurried away looking perhaps more distraught than I.
Maybe I should’ve stayed home and boiled rocks for dinner.
So, I passively turned away from the scene of a failed reunion, toward another aisle I’d already been down. I stood before a heaping tower of bottled water. Rapidly criss-crossing my eyes at this point, I was trying to calculate how many cases of water I’d need to never again require a grocery run.
Then another woman tapped me on the shoulder. Seriously?! What did I do now?
Yes, this is a true story.
I turned to look at the finger’s owner. For a fleeting moment, I wished a dentist was drilling to China in my tooth.
A woman reached out her hand. “I noticed you looking at the water,” she smiled. “Here’s a coupon I’m not going to use.”
My eyeballs snapped back to their correct sockets.
I smiled the first genuine smile at another human since my move. And I nearly teared up at that $1.50-off coupon.
And at the small but thoughtful gesture from someone who did not want to accost me.
Through healthy teeth, I smiled, “Thanks. You just made my day!”
Her reaction was an odd mixture of pity, amusement and pride, and she told me to take care. It made me glow a little inside.
Small gestures of kindness spread joy like sunshine during a Michigan winter. No matter how infrequent, when they do occur, there’s nothing to ignite the soul with optimism quite so profoundly.
I skipped through the rest of the aisles and smiled my way back home.
Small but profound. That’s what happens with a smile at a stranger. A kind gesture. A genuine compliment. These are what help heal bruised souls—and swell those already overflowing with love and kindness.
Give a coupon. Smile at a lost gal with rotating eyeballs. You never know how positive an influence you may have. Hey, a simple $1.50 gesture can be virtually priceless.