It’s more than a word of affirmation.
It’s more than a smile.
It’s more than a handhold.
It’s more than a greeting.
It’s more than a quarter.
I love shopping at Aldi. Where else can you get organic veggies and fruit that don’t break the bank and find new temptations like chocolate hummus and grass-fed cheddar! While we can’t necessarily fill our cupboards entirely by shopping there, my sweetheart and I have learned to save money and time by heading there first as we supply 3 school-aged kids with healthy breakfasts, lunches, and snacks.
But what continues to amaze me about shopping there is what happens outside the store at the shopping cart corral.
If you’ve not been there, you really should stop by, especially if you need a reminder of what humanity truly has to offer. When we move beyond political and social media banter and into real connection with our community, we see each other as neighbors instead of strangers.
So here’s the deal: in order to save money and time, Aldi connects their carts with a special chain. You put in a quarter in a slot on the ride side of your cart, it releases the chain, and you’re ready to shop. After you unload your cart, you return it to the corral, and when you push the chain into the slot, your quarter pops back out.
And yet, some of us forget quarters. Some of us can’t figure out how to make the chain disconnect. And sometimes, everything just gets stuck and it takes another person to get us out of our jam.
Sounds like life, right?!
Given that this world is not lacking for inspiration and hope, I thought I’d share these vignettes.
Long day, long week, emotional me. There’s no getting out of heading to the store to grab a few things before I go home, put on a decent demeanor, and feed a family. Storm brewing, my emotions stewing. Get to the cart corral and no quarter. Gentleman with t-shirt noting different values than mine looks at me, teary-eyed, middle-aged woman with a Subaru, Birkenstocks, and Whole Foods shopping bag. He smiles, tips his hat, and wheels his cart to me. No expectation of a quarter in return. No wondering who I am and what I do beyond being someone who could use a break and a quarter.
Running in to grab a few things so I can prep for our upcoming trip to Nantucket–my sweetheart’s mother grew up going to a family beach home there, and our desire is to take her one more time while she can still enjoy the home and the family. Get out to the car. No keys. Run back inside. No keys. Head out to the cart corral. Young mama with hands full of children, shopping list and bags exclaims, “These must be yours!” Her baby, in the seat of the cart, has found them and is shaking the makeshift toy. As I reach out my hand, he looks me in the eye with a smile filled with joy then releases the keys into my hand.
I’ve just unloaded my car and am headed back to the corral with my cart. A senior adult with a cane works her way slowly from the disabled parking space. About the time I reach the other buggies, she has stepped up onto the curb. Her shopping bags are tattered, and I notice that the hair on her head has shifted a bit. Her skin, gray in pallor, stretches over her cheekbones and eye sockets so tightly that I feel the weight of her illness in my heart. I stand, pretending to dig through my purse for something, until she steps up onto the sidewalk. I smile quietly and offer her my cart–no quarter needed, just a humble gesture indicating, “I understand.” She looks at me and nods with her eyes closed.
I realize that these little moments of grace happen everywhere, not necessarily just at Aldi. I’d like to hope that we take a moment to stop and let these opportunities sink in and balance out the negativity that we are bombarded with daily. That requires us to be intentional and experience gratitude. It invites us to think and feel. Most importantly, it reminds us that things like quarters, smiles, and greetings are extensions of love, compassion, and generosity.