Sunday, July 6, 2014
"To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts." — Henry David Thoreau
(If I’ve printed this story before—it’s worth reading again, so hush.) When we first moved from Los Angeles to Arkansas, one of the things I loved was that when we went into the grocery stores, the checkers knew our names and asked about us. After the impersonal anonymity of the big city, it was really nice to know that our checker ladies were named Pearl and Opal. One day, at the end of a long and frustrating day at the university, I stopped in to buy just one two-liter bottle of Coca-Cola. As I neared the cash register with my purchase, I could see that only Pearl was on duty and that there was no one in line. This was going to quick and easy, that is until I was rammed in the hip by a heavily laden grocery cart (trolly for my British friends) being pushed by a rather large woman who was pulling a second cart as full as the first. “I’m in a hurry,” she yelled at me as if that made everything all right. She pushed in front of me and took up a least a half-hour of Pearl’s time with her handfuls of coupons and numerous price checks. At long last, she took her train of carts and went outside to her car. As I stepped up to the register, I looked at Pearl and said, “This will be a little easier than that last one.” Pearl just smiled at me and waved me through without paying. “You have no idea how easy,” she said, “I put your Coke on her bill.” She and I were both still laughing as I left the store. She turned my day around with that simple little gesture. I would have gone home harassed and angry and taken it out on my family. Instead, I brought them some Coke and a smile. I was telling this story from the pulpit of a small church in the area many years later and when I finished, there was the usual laughter, but I could see that one man was openly weeping. I waited for him to come out after the service so I could apologize if I had hurt him somehow. When he took my hand, he looked up and smiled through his tears. “Pearl was my mother, and you painted a perfect picture of her,” he said as he firmly shook my hand. He told me that she often told that story and he had it memorized. He was glad to finally meet the man who made his mother’s day so long ago. Sometimes, all we can do here is make one person’s day a little brighter. Sometimes, that is all God asks of us.