I just wanted to get into the grocery store and get out again, as quickly as possible. My daughter and I had divided up the list of needed items and we both had our own carts. It was a solid plan, foolproof, so I thought, until I reached the deli counter. A wall of customers surrounded the glass case. Number eighty-six was lit up on the “Now Serving Customer” sign, and there was no clear path for me to even take a number. After what seemed like an eternity, but was probably only a minute or two, Number 87 was called. And then the strangest thing happened. Nobody said a word! Nothing. Again, a deli clerk announced, “Number 87!” Still, silence. I didn’t see any of the customers holding tickets, so I just asked the crowd, “ARE there numbers?” Finally, to the left of me, a response, “It (the number machine) keeps breaking and someone has to keep opening it up for the numbers.” “Okay, thanks,” I said, “Have you been waited on? Ma’am, how about you? No? Well, you be 87, then, and I’ll be 88.” Problem solved. I’d get my husband’s turkey and roast beef, and head for the organic bananas in Produce.
That was the whole conversation. Not particularly earth-shattering, but it was the following exchange that felt like a graced moment. The woman I’ll call Number 87 was pushing one of those really cool, but extremely large shopping carts that looks like a race car, with a little toddler girl buckled in one of the two seats. She approached me after she’d received all her deli meat. “Thank you for letting me go ahead of you. My husband had to take our son to go get a balloon, I know things got a little crazy, I’m sorry…” I told her not to worry…we have three kids of our own and I miss the days when they were little. I told her I like to see young families like hers as it reminds me of those days. No big deal, right? But it felt good, just the same, to spread a little sunshine.
After the bananas and two bags of shredded lettuce were secured, I headed for the soap and shampoos aisle. On the way, though, I witnessed a very tender moment, and it stuck with me the rest of the afternoon. A couple stood in one of the aisles, a man and a woman, and the woman was visibly upset or sad about something. The man embraced her and leaned down and gently kissed her on her head. I heard her quietly say to him, “Let’s just get what we need and then go.” I moved one aisle over just so that I was not intruding on their quiet moment, but it felt very personal for some reason, and I felt privileged to have witnessed such tenderness.
It was at that moment that my daughter, now with her cart full, approached and probably wondered why the only contents in my cart were: peppermint tea, turkey, roast beef, bananas and shredded lettuce. I spared her the details of these special moments and efficiently located the rest of my items. To her, it was a quick trip to the grocery store together. To me, it was a few more life lessons on encountering Christ in the most unexpected places. Keep your eyes and hearts wide open, friends. You just may have your own God moment, when you least expect it, in Aisle Eleven!