At the Grocery Store at Noon
on February 14th
Ashley Crowder Stanley, Pastor
All I needed was one baking potato and some arugula, items I had forgotten when I did my weekly grocery shopping. I got a lot more.
As I rushed through the front doors, I was overwhelmed with the red tsunami that greeted me: red Starbucks cups, a 4-foot red balloon that spelled LOVE, red roses, red roses mixed together with yellow and white roses, red envelopes on the card display, red cookies, even red stuffed animals just begging to go home with me. I didn’t cave.
As I inched downed the aisle, I began looking at the faces of the men that were energetically shopping (I literally saw not one woman in the “red” section): some of them looked panicked, some were smiling, some seemed lost, a few were smiling, others were checking their watches, one guy had two identical bouquets in his hands and I smiled, imagining one was for his mama and one was for his beloved. Another man held his bouquet out to me and asked: “do you think she’ll like these?”. Since I didn’t know him or her, I had no idea; “you’re doing great,” I said. The roses and cards and balloons are all meant to wordlessly convey the 3 words that are often so difficult, so vulnerable to say out loud: I Love You.
On another aisle, there was little girl in a sleeveless, frilly dress with red hearts on it who was waiting for her mom to decide on what cheese to buy. She touched her mom’s hand and said: “Mom, I see you. And I love you forever and forever.” The mom stopped what she was doing, knelt down, looked into her daughter’s eyes and said “I see you too and I love you forever and forever, always.” I may have had to turn away to wipe the tears that were soaking my mask.
Then, I got in line behind a woman who was slightly bent over and beautiful, unloading her cart of its half-dozen items: pimento cheese, a chicken pot pie, some Kleenex, 2 bananas, a quart of milk. She turned to me and said: “this is the first Valentine’s Day since my husband died. I miss him so much but we have to carry on, don’t we?” I wished her a good day, resentful that the pandemic and our cultural reluctance to hug people kept me from putting my arm around her or at least squeezing her hand. Right then, I remembered hearing that, except for medical interventions, the elderly can go for weeks, even months without being lovingly touched. I hope that someone she knows offers affection to her today.
Then it was my turn to check out: the potato and arugula cruised down the check-out belt where they stopped in front of the guy who seems to be there. He is kind, always smiles, looks me in the eye. No attitude. A vestige of a head injury from earlier in his life.
“Do you have big plans for tonight?” he asked me. “Cooking supper,” I replied. “I forgot a few things. What about you?”
“I don’t have a girlfriend,” he said. “So, I will get off work, go home, just fart around for a little while and go to bed. Just another day. I wish it was different.”
I looked him in the eye and said “I hear you. I wish it was different for you, too. You are my favorite check out guy and I appreciate you.” And he weakly smiled. Inside my head, I was chastising myself: “good grief. You botched that.”
Love, however expressed, says “I see you. You are important to me and to the world. You are not alone, even though it may seem that way today. Here’s my hand, here’s my heart. Let’s do life together.”
May we peek around the balloons, the flowers, the emptiness, the grief, the cultural pressure to consume and take a tiny step at expressing your love. May there be a love tsunami that covers our world, that heals our hearts and that brings hope to us all. Even in the “red section” at noon on February 14th.