Photo courtesy of Roujo
As I unloaded the last bit of our groceries onto the belt this morning, David prepared to pay as I got our bags together and helped collect our overpriced produce and organic goods. Moments before, I walked past this happy, upbeat young girl riding in the seat of one of those car slash grocery carts, smiling and sweet. When I looked at her and smiled, she beamed.
She and her mom, I suspect, were ahead of us in line, and I had come from the other end and jimmied myself past them and their many bags of groceries. When it came time for them to pay, the mom began to present a check, and the cashier informed her that “starter checks” were not accepted there. The mom asked if the woman knew anywhere that they were accepted, but the cashier said no. The mom went and collected her daughter from underneath the cart. The daughter, not knowing any better, started to push the cart away, seemingly excited for all of the goods inside. Except that they would be going home with nothing.
Breaking and debilitating emotions coursed through me, and I thought, “maybe she could write me the check and we could pay for her groceries.” Then the cashier asked her if she was coming back for her bagged cart full of groceries. The woman said, calmly, “this is all the money I have. This check. So no. I won’t be coming back for these groceries.” As she and her daughter quietly left the store, the staff began to dismantle her cart in order to get it back on the shelves for the next paying customer.
It was a rude awakening, and it made me truly sad. As we continued to bag our wine and cheese and chips and salsa, the whole thing seemed somewhat surreal. By the time David and I got to the car, I couldn’t stop thinking about it – the woman and her daughter and the idea of them going home without anything. He said that he also thought to pay for this woman’s groceries. So, what stopped us from acting? That answer is not an easy, nor quick one, to come by.
Partly, the fact that we feel pretty far removed from our community here definitely does not help us to act when our neighbors are in need. But more than that, it seems to be a sign of the times. Somewhere along the way, I, too, must have become infested with the apathy bug. And as white houses are stolen, wars are waged, and neighbors may not have enough available cash (if any at all) to feed their kids, I, simply, do not act.
The issue of this mom being legitimate or not isn’t relevant, in my mind. Once, today, I was given the opportunity to reach out and directly help somebody. Instead, I chose to do nothing. By doing nothing when given a glaring opportunity to do so, it is as good as not voting, blindly consuming, and not speaking out against injustices. All to remain seemingly “safe” in an apathetic, or at least, non-active, state.
This needs to change, and this message today brought it home, as hard as a bed of nails. No longer can I choose, every day, to pretend that I am not affected by what is happening in the world around me, merely because of the fact that David and I have the means -today – to pay for our groceries. One of these days, it very easily could be us. It has been me before, so I should know better.