The Day I Cried at the Grocery Store
It was Sunday. I wanted to truly enjoy a day of rest. But I also needed to get my food prep ready for the week. The last thing I wanted to do was go to the grocery store. I headed out to my go-to stores in the Indianapolis area with a bad attitude: Whole Foods and Meijer.
There are times I walk into Whole Foods and I feel inferior to other shoppers. Some women look at my cart with judgement. Some women look at me with judgement. Then I start to feel insecure and my mind wanders. What’s wrong with me? Do I have something on my face? Does this person think I’m ugly? Does she disapprove of my cart’s contents? Who the heck should even care? In those moments, I did.
A high-school girl and her mom were ahead of me at the check-out lane. They were asking the clerk about a gluten-free bread they were trying for the first time. I piped in to let the mom and daughter know that they were making a good purchase, especially for making sandwiches. The mother and daughter looked so overwhelmed as they explained the girl’s new gluten-free journey. I looked them both in the eyes and said, “Take it one meal at a time. You can do this. Keep asking questions and keep exploring. Don’t give up.” Their faces told me they were grateful.
I walked out of Whole Foods with tears in my eyes. I was in that girl’s shoes a little over five years ago, and I know how overwhelmed she must feel with her new food journey. I also felt saddened about this girl’s self-esteem. For some reason, I sensed that there were other tensions in her life, in addition to a new gluten-free diet. High school can be a difficult time for young girls. I said a prayer for her in my car, “God, help this girl to love herself and to see the true beauty in the person You created her to be.”
I immediately felt convicted about letting the judgemental looks of other women get to me. We (women and girls) can be so destructive to each other with our nonverbal ways. It’s easy to do. It’s easy to fall prey.
Anyway, Meijer was my next stop. Grocery shopping at Meijer is an entirely different experience. This particular Sunday afternoon, it was extremely busy. All I wanted was to get my groceries in a timely manner and get home.
A lady who looked like she was about 60 years young was shopping, and she slipped on wet floor by the citrus fruit. A gentleman employee was mopping, and there was no caution sign. She fell straight on her back. A few shoppers rushed to help her up. I went over to assist and everyone was asking her if she was okay. She said she would be fine, and kept moving along. The employee grabbed a caution sign to alert other customers of the wet floor. Everyone went on with their day, giving dirty looks to the Meijer employee who continued mopping.
I could not let her wobble away in pain. I walked up to her and asked her again, “Are you sure you’re okay?” She told me she was in pain, but that she wanted to get her groceries and get home because her 4-pound preemie granddaughter was coming home from the hospital today, and that was cause for celebration! Tears welled up in my eyes, and I said, “That’s wonderful news!” I told her that she should tell customer service about the incident so that it was on record in case she needed to seek medical help. She thanked me for taking the time to help her.
I made sure to walk by the employee who was mopping and was adamant that he saw me smile at him. He needed to know that this customer’s fall was an accident, and that he was still appreciated for his work.
I ran into her a couple more times throughout Meijer, and we exchanged smiles. When I saw her for the third time, I walked up to her and checked in again. Then I said, “I’m so happy I met you today. You are clearly in pain, but the joy I see on your face about your granddaughter’s homecoming is contagious. Thank you for sharing such wonderful news with me.”
I left Meijer crying (again). You never know who you are going to run into at the store. I could have kept to myself at both stores and lost the chance to be blessed by others. I was reminded on that Sunday to not let my selfish thoughts and attitude interfere with the needs of people. Because people matter.
I'm Ali. I write about my journey of living a full and healthy life with food allergies, overcoming the comparison trap, and cultivating authenticity.