Friday, March 18, 2016

Lenten Challenge Week Five

As I began the fifth week, I realized something had shifted in my perception. I may have superpowers, because I actually think I made my brain work differently.

I find myself taking—and seeing opportunities to take—more and more photos in my daily life, but especially around our home. I love coming home from the morning dog walk to see the sun rising over our home. I love the play of light in the skies above, the rich colors, and the silhouettes of the trees, pine and oak and palm.

Pollen, or the earth’s current tilt, has given us some beautiful color lately. Of all the gifts life in Florida gives, that one surprised and delighted me most when we moved here.

As I looked through my recent pictures, I can see the shift in my intention. I’m no longer seeking to memorialize one beautiful place. I’m looking for beauty in my daily life and I’m appreciating it there, especially at home.

Shortly after I had that thought, life made it physically manifest, cementing it in my mind.

I went to our neighborhood grocery store for a few things. I love the people who work there; they’re a huge part of our family’s community. In the summer, they joke with the kids and we all chat together, but it’s snowbird season now. The grocery stores are slammed—no parking, carts stacking up outside despite several people constantly bringing them in, and lines at all of the (many more than usual) open checkouts.

Let me set the scene at our grocery store—one, they’re collecting spring holiday meals for families in need right now. Two, there’s a screen showing your items that faces the checkout line. It’s virtually impossible, especially for a reflexive reader like me, not to see the electronic receipt of the person in front of you. Also, they love to take your cart out to the car for you. It’s policy, plus the people are just nice. It’s taken me years to convince them to let me do my own because I like it. They’re that nice!

So, on that particular morning, I got in line between two ladies, both physically unremarkable. No halos or pitchforks, just ordinary folks.

The customer two people in front of me finished up and the bagger went with her, to escort her to her car. The lady behind me immediately started huffing and grumbling about the line and the crowds and how there was now no bagger. “They don’t even have a bagger!” she griped, over and over. She was so unpleasant that I stepped as far away from her as I could; no amount of ingrained manners could make me stand still for that.

I focused on the lady in front of me, quietly going about her business. I’d stepped so far forward in my attempt to avoid the other customer that I inadvertently read her receipt. She saved a little over thirteen dollars, which I thought was pretty good. I aim for ten percent and she’d beaten that. The cashier asked if she’d like to donate a meal to a family in need. She said, “Yes, please.” And then she chose the highest of the three donation levels—a little over thirteen dollars. I smiled at the symmetry of her savings turning into giving.

Meanwhile, during the entire time it took for this nice lady to check out, the customer behind me had not stopped loudly and aggressively griping about the lack of bagger.

My turn came and I chatted with the cashier as she rang up my few items. I reached for the bags to help her, but I only had a few things and she beat me to it. I thanked her, commenting that we’d had to bag our own in Nashville, so I still feel spoiled having it done for me. She said it’s the same in England (she’s from the UK).

A bagger rushed in from the parking lot as we finished, granting us a momentary reprieve from the grumbles behind me. Then the bagger, as required, offered to help me take my things to the car. I smiled and said, “No, thanks! I’ve got it.” They know I always say that, so the bagger smiled and turned to the customer behind me.

But, in that brief exchange—the offer and the refusal—that lady had started up with the swearing and griping about no baggers again!

I want to remember that moment. It’s such a beautiful summary of the lesson I’ve been learning. We all experienced the exact same thing. We could not alter the circumstances, but the two people on either side of me made it clear that we can choose our reactions.

That’s the difference between looking only at what is missing and sharing what is present, the difference between toxic anger and joy.

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