A lesson in slowing down to see the goodness that surrounds
“Sorry I’m late” is my go-to greeting on too many occasions. I stumble into the “I-can-cram-one-more-thing-in-before-I-leave” trap, forever racing through traffic and life to make up for lost time.
On one such day, I peeled out of my driveway, late for a luncheon with ladies who tend to look for things about me to judge. I sped along the four-lane main drag when I realized that I had volunteered to bring the dessert. Yikes! I squealed over to the inside lane, made a U-turn at the “No U-turns” sign, screeched two blocks in the other direction through a yellow light, and turned left into the parking lot. I landed near the cart return, jumped out, and beeped the car lock while sprinting for the grocery store door. I swung in and raced toward the bakery, thinking a cheesecake would be a safe bet. I spied a little old man who was stuck in the middle of the isle with his cart jammed up against a display chest. Throngs of people whizzed past as if he were invisible.
I held my pace to nab a quick dessert, get through the express checkout and to the luncheon while it might still count as only fashionably late rather than awkwardly tardy. I was in a hurry and didn’t have time to deal with it, but wasn’t anyone around there going to do the right thing? I kept going, half walking, half running, hoping that I would glance back to find a decent human being reaching out to this fragile little man who just hung there, hands on the cart, six or seven items in the cart, stranded up against the display. He stood kind of crooked over, his eyes closed beneath deep leathered creases. Was he alright? I couldn’t believe that nobody would stop and help him or even acknowledge his existence. Surely they weren’t all running late? I was almost to the bakery by now, and couldn’t live with myself. I begrudgingly turned around and dragged myself back across the store.
“Sir, would you like some help?” I employed my kindest voice to hide my irritation.
“Oh, yes, please” he said, opening his eyes, “I had to take a little rest.” His head vibrated as he spoke, “Would you just keep your hand on the end of the cart so it won’t get away from me? I’m going up to check out.”
“Sure,” I said, “no problem.” I maneuvered him and his cart out from behind the display and our 20-yard journey to the cashier began. To compare his pace to a snail does not begin to describe the rate of his shuffle (or lack of rate would be more precise), but his kind heart and sweet spirit instantly erased my sense of urgency. Time was immaterial as I listened carefully to his quiet words. I breathed in his peace as he shared his life with me. We talked of adult children, grand children and great grand children. We laughed a little and when we finally made it to the check out, he looked at me with those cataract glazed sea-blue eyes and said, “God bless you. I’ll put in a good word for you to St. Peter. I’m sure I’ll be seeing him before too long.”
“Thank you,” I responded as flippant as I could muster to hide my tears, “God knows I need all the help I can get.”
Oh so true. Perhaps this sweet little man was invisible to everyone but me that day so that I would be sure to get the message: self importance blinds me to the goodness that surrounds me. I haven’t seen that man since, but I think of him often.
By Mary Lee Harvey Dircks