I knew it would be harder on some days than others to find anything illuminated or illuminating, especially on a day like this one when I’m home with some kind of minor viral invasion keeping me down, the temperature and humidity are up, and I can’t seem to sleep without having floods of convoluted images assault me. So I did what anyone in my situation might do: I went food shopping.
At Checker’s, our large, locally-owned supermarket with a great selection of fresh produce, I managed to aim through the aisles while simultaneously planning several meals over the next week even if I forgot what all the food in the cart added up to dinner-wise by the time I got to check out. But then as I was sliding my debit card and chatting with the check-out woman, I remembered something else: why and how my father-in-law went shopping.
Gene, who passed away about 18 months ago, was an avid shopper after his retirement. It was what he did, starting at one store for oranges on sale, going to another to get milk, and yet another for corn flakes. It wasn’t just the number of stores he visited, but the time he spent in each. As a retired schoolteacher, he knew anyone and everyone, and he could chat people up in produce or over cat food, catching up on generations of his students and colleagues. But it was the people working check-out that he saved his more positive comments for, making sure to joke around with them about the weather, compliment them on a hairdo or ring, and in general, be a little spot of cheer for them. He once told me that if he could make a check-out man or woman laugh, that made his day; that he considered this deed the most important thing he could do with his time.
My checker was very friendly, joking with me about the sudden flood of people when she thought hardly anyone was in the store. “Yeah, we were hiding in the aisles, getting ready to descend upon you all at once,” I told her, and she laughed. Although she actually did more to cheer me than visa-versa, the whole exchange made me remember this important lesson from my father-in-law that I keep re-learning: the best kind of magic is made of kindness.