However this time I had the grocery-cart high road. I was buying fruit and fresh veggies, milk, whole-grain bread and a very understandable 6pack of caffeine-free diet coke. I couldn't help but see the monochromatic color scheme the customer in front of me had going on; all beige, brown, and bland. Frozen chicken nuggets, enriched white bread, pre-packed oval hashbrowned frozen potatoes, potato chips, and full-sugar coke. Some fattening sweets as well rounded out his selections.
He was unkempt and to be honest (although not very kind) he was a bit on the slovenly side as well. He had the look of someone who stayed up til 3 am playing video games in his parents' basement, eating pizza rolls and telling his friends he "p'wned" them in the game. Sloppy clothes, pasty-faced and fumbling, he seemed ill-equipped to tie his own shoes, much less to be buying his own groceries.
He was shy, quiet, and mumbling to the clerk. I always try to mind my own business (besides glancing at the contents of other people's carts) and was trying not to know what was happening. I saw the clerk take aside the hamburger buns and bag of chicken nuggets and put them to the side.
It brought back a flood of memories; I've been poor for so much of my life, this could have been an excerpt from the pages of my past. Once, when I was newly married and newly mommied to Zack, I used to work at Glamour Shots, a horrid little photography place that made women up like painted whores and took pictures of them in fake, stilted, supposedly sultry poses and sold them at exhorbitant prices. I hated the job (this was wellllll before I was Muslim) but the whole fake environment wore on me. I was a lowly receptionist and happy to have the $6.50 and hour to pay our rent, utilities, groceries, gas, diapers, etc... (My husband was a full-time student in art college and not working.)
Anyway Christmas time rolled around and my co-workers (most of whom were very nice masha'allah) and I all went out with our husbands to the annual restaurant party thrown by the owner. I'd obviously been eating more ramen noodles for lunch than I'd realized (either that or the cheap land'o'lakes ham on the cheapest of white breads) because at the end of the dinner I got something I hadn't even dreamed of receiving.
|10 cents a pack; can't be beat for price and bad nutrition!|
Fast forward as I stand behind this young man in the line. I ache to reach out, to help him. To hand him a $20 with as much grace and compassion as my friends did for me 16 years ago.
Then I thought, maybe I can just quickly tell the cashier I will pay for his 2 purchases and can the bagger run them out to him? But by that time he was out the doors, disappeared into the cold, grey afternoon.
I even thought if they hurried and I got out in time I could walk up to him but my sudden shyness prevented. What if he was embarassed and refused, or really just forgot his wallet and had to use the cash he had on him? Was I over-dramatizing the moment?
I don't think so. I believe he had to make a balance choosing between healthy, filling, nourishing food and his bank account. I used to make 10 fish sticks, a can of green beans, and pour out two 6 oz cups of milk for my sons after their father and I divorced. Each boy got 5 fish sticks and milk as well as as a good serving of beans. I ate the leftover beans and ate any of the food they might have on their plates. It was all I could afford and I would have given them the life flowing in my veins if it would have fed them.
I thought about this the whole way home; at first with sadness for his condition but then, just a beautiful feeling of gratitude and glory for Allah. It is HE who gave me EVERY blessing in my life I don't deserve. It is by His grace, and His alone, that I am striving on the path al-Islam, and that I have more comfort and security than I ever dreamed. Wallah I was so overcome by the rahma of our Lord I had tears in my eyes and I felt so unworthy.
I am not trying to be "poor me" or make anyone feel bad for me or what I have been through in my life. I am GRATEFUL to ALLAH for everything in my life, past and present, good and bad. I learned, I grew, I discovered how to truly appreciate every good moment in my life and accept the bad. It has made me stronger, and more resilient and yes, kinder.
It has made me the kind of person that can feel empathy for a stranger in the check-out line and carry home a lesson in humility and gratitude along with my groceries.
All praises are due to Allah, the creator of the worlds!!!!