Thursday, November 6, 2014

Accepting Mercy On the Supermarket Line

I am watching the cashier at the local supermarket ring up my purchase.  $25.72. I pass over my singles, one at a time, then the two five dollar bills, then the four dollars worth of quarters I found in various nooks in my car. And I realize I am 72 cents short.

I am buying tonight's dinner - a full chicken for roasting, a bag of carrots and four sweet potatoes.

I am also buying a half gallon of soy milk, a dozen eggs, and a jar of applesauce because I plan to bake oatmeal raisin cookies on this rainy November night. I glance over my purchase. What don't we need tonight?

"Oh, let me put two of those sweet potatoes back," I tell the cashier.

The woman behind me in line smiles. She offers the cashier three quarters. "This happens to me all the time, " she says to me

For a split second, I feel embarrassed. I want to explain to her that my husband's paycheck clears at midnight tonight, that we are solidly middle class family with two jobs, a mortgage that is paid on time. Truly, I could have found those quarters on the floor of my sedan, I want to say.

But she's smiling and I realize none of that matters: whether I am temporarily without three quarters, or whether this is a daily occurrence.

She wants me to buy those two extra sweet potatoes and she was put in front of me so I could be humble and accept her gesture.

How often our pride gets in the way of seeing the hand of Our Creator. I like to think of myself as the giver, not the receiver: I'd spent part of my afternoon at the wake of a friend's father, a man who had had an often difficult life. I had actually been trying to list the  seven - is it seven? - corporal works of mercy on my drive home, patting myself on the back (figuratively of course) for driving to the wake and comforting this friend and never considering that I might be in need of mercy, too.

A world so free and profligate reveals your loving hand, O Lord. With dawn and all the gifts of day we praise you, Abba, breath and word.  
– Lauds and Vespers, Camaldolese Monks, OSB


  1. Ouch, I have had those moments too. sometimes it is more blessed to receive than to give.