A Gift of Awakening
Katie Harmon-McLaughlin of Independence, MO, USA
“How long will you judge unjustly
and show partiality to the wicked?
Give justice to the weak and the orphan;
maintain the right of the lowly and the destitute.
Rescue the weak and the needy;
deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”
Rise up, O God, judge the earth;
for all the nations belong to you! -Psalm 82:2-4, 8
It was late in the evening and we were on our way home with a sleeping toddler in the car when I remembered that we were out of milk. Anticipating the drama of a morning without milk for my daughter, I suggested to my husband that we should stop at the grocery store.
I scurried through the aisles to get milk and a few other essentials. As I made my way to the front of the store, I was greeted by two very long lines. With my family waiting in the car, I felt the itch of impatience begin within me. I chose a line and eventually was able to set down my items on the conveyor belt. After a few minutes, I realized that we weren’t moving. I watched as the other line started moving at a rapid pace while my line was at a standstill. With my groceries already lined up on the belt and people behind me, I was stuck!
The woman in front of me was going through her receipt in detail with the cashier, making sure every item was the price she had anticipated. She believed it was off a few dollars. I tapped my foot and tried to distract myself by texting my husband to express my irritation at the delay. “Let’s just start over,” the cashier suggested. She took all her items out of the bags in her cart and he rang her up again. She watched vigilant as each item’s price appeared on the screen. When she was satisfied with the price, she paid with her debit card, which was declined twice. Just as I was about to let out an obnoxious, let’s-get-this-moving sigh, she lamented, “I know I have $60 in my account. I don’t know why this is happening!”
With deep humility, I suddenly realized that she cared so much about the price of every item because she needed every penny. She was buying groceries with only $60 in her checking account. I don’t know her whole story, but my impatience transformed to compassion. An inner stillness opened within me that could accept why a quick trip to the grocery store was taking a little longer. I realized that I had hardly noticed the price of the items I picked up because I had plenty of money to buy the groceries I needed for my family. I was consuming carelessly and quickly. I also noticed, for the first time, the quality of the cashier and his nonjudgmental presence with this woman as he patiently responded and did what was needed to help her.
Sometimes I am absorbed with my own life and expect convenience and ease. Disruptions to our normal patterns can be a gift of awakening. With a shift of perspective, I was able to see the sacred worth of the woman before me, the cashier who was helping her, and examine my own careless consumption habits. Even impatience in the grocery line can be a holy encounter.
I belong with all that lives.
Take a deep breath and pay attention to the web of relationships that sustain your life right now. Remember the people who have formed you. Consider the nourishing food and drink that come to you from the planet. Notice all the lives that touched everything that surrounds you. Offer a prayer of gratitude for connection and belonging with God and all creation.
Today’s Prayer for Peace
Engage in a daily practice of praying for peace in our world. Click here to read today’s prayer and be part of this practice of peace.