Having A Day
Today was not a fun day for me. Few things happened at work that caused me to, well...today was not fun. I left work, knowing that traffic would be bad, but I had no idea how bad it would be. All I wanted was to be home. After turning a 15-minute drive into a 45-minute ordeal, I made the wise choice to run in the grocery store for a few things, before continuing the jaunt-turned-marathon home.
Grocery stores are a black hole for me.
I get lost in them.
I can never find what I want, and they are laid out all backward.
I mean really, who puts cat food and toilet paper next to each other, let alone on the same aisles?
35-minutes later I had my toilet paper, cereal, fruit, eggs, IPA's, and creamer.
You know the necessities of life.
And I was ready to pick the fastest checkout lane like a champ.
I pushed my cart into a line based on the cashier, Johnny, because we always joke about the Redsox and the Yankees, but that is another story. As I waited my turn to move my toilet paper and milk to the conveyor belt that moves my goods down to Johnny, you know, since it is so much work to walk them the 2.4 feet myself, I pulled out my phone to see which one of you had watched my Instagram story recounting my adventures of shopping.
I quickly became annoyed, by an older lady with a tight gray perm, and her younger companion in yoga pants and a mid 90s Cubs t-shirt, who were both seemingly questioning the pricing of almost everything they had placed on the conveyor for Johnny to scan.
Frustration To Clarity To Anger
After a few more very long, very frustrating moments, I realized they were not questioning pricing, but they were struggling with the complexity of EBT system.
Then I felt like a tool.
Let me pause to say there was a season in life where my small children would have missed more than one meal, had it not been for the benefits of EBT. So I know the struggles of accepting them and the complexity of using them as well.
After an agonizing 15 minutes, the older women with the tight gray perm was now noticeably agitated and starting to bark at Johnny about how they should better label things. Her younger companion in yoga pants and a mid 90s Cubs t-shirt was becoming more embarrassed by each agonizing second.
As my frustration for them grew, I pulled out my iPhone to again check to see who might need my attention. As I did, I noticed a guy my age in a gray striped shirt, staring me down a few aisles over.
I looked up to make eye contact with the older lady with a tight gray perm, more to let her know I was ok waiting, only to have her pull her young companion and say loudly to her:
"Baby don't be embarrassed; you deserve this stuff!"
"Those (ethnic slur) over there don't deserve this (food), but you do!"
I about exploded.
My internal monolog went something like:
"Who the hell are you?
You don't know their story!
You don't know they don't need this any more than you do!
Why in a moment of frustration are you now throwing stones and word bombs at people you don't know?
I looked around to see if anyone else was as flabbergasted as I was.
As I was about to say something, I made eye contact with the guy my age in the gray striped shirt, still staring me down a few aisles over.
Whether it was him watching me or the grace of God, I held my tongue and said nothing out loud; however, the words were flying in my mind. I was calling her on her tirade of ethnic slurs. I so wanted to yell at her and tell her she was the problem with the world.
Classy of me, right?
5-minutes later, it was my turn to pay for my groceries. An embarrassed Johnny and a stunned manager apologized to me. I simply nodded my head as a "yeah whatever!"
There was no banter about the Yankees and the Redsox this time with Johnny, knowing if I started talking about it, I would lose my cool.
Are You Justin Brackett?
As I waited for my card to make that horrible approval sound when your chip has been read on your card, I looked up to see the guy in the gray striped shirt had now moved to the manager's desk and was still looking at me.
What the heck...
Johnny said, "have a good night, 'Brackett'!" I said goodnight, and for a long second, I thought about not walking by the guy staring me down. But I again pulled out my iPhone, the universal sign of "leave me alone!" and started moving towards him, only because he was between me and the closest door to my car.
As I walked by the guy in the gray striped shirt, he said: "Hey are you Justin Brackett?"
Me: "Ummm maybe?" ... "Yeah, no, I am, who are you?" (while looking for the best path away from him, if I needed to bolt)
The guy in the gray striped shirt: "Hey, I'm Donald!"
Me: (thinking wow, what an odd name for someone in their 30s) "Hey man, nice to meet you!"
Donald: "Nice to meet you!" "I think I saw you yesterday on a video!"
Me: "I know this is going to sound horrible, but I did a few videos yesterday, which one did you see?"
Donald: "The one with your friend Bear, I think was his name. He had a great goatee!"
Me: "Do you go to Seacoast?"
Donald: "No. I don't really do church!"
Me: "How the heck did you see that video?"
Donald: "My grandmother shared it on Facebook I think."
Donald: "Anyways, I just wanted to tell you, I don't do church, but you and your friend had so much fun laughing talking about church stuff and the Bible that I think I might give church a chance again. I grew up in church, but I stopped going years ago because, well, no one was having fun. Seeing you and your friend having a good time, talking about church stuff made me think church must have changed, and well, I guess I'd like to try a church where people have fun."
Donald and I chatted for a few minutes about how he had randomly exited I-526, miles before he should have because of the traffic and randomly walked into my grocery store.
He laughed as he told me he had spotted me looking at toilet paper, (you know, next to the cat food), then followed me as I meandered around the store, to see if I was the guy from the video.
We parted ways, with my invitation to have him come to church with me soon. Which he said he was not sure he was game for that just yet, he did, however, promise to message me this week to talk more about church.
Hold Your Tongue
When I got home, I recounted the day to my kids. As I did, I got choked up, as I thought about how I could have lost an opportunity to talk to Donald, had I let my tongue get the best of me and put the older lady, with a tight gray perm, in her place.
I was reminded in that moment how much weight our words have. And our actions give us the opportunity to interact with people, and if we want to be heard, we have to live in a way that allows us to be heard.
Published by: Justin Brackett in Community