I went grocery shopping at the worst possible time. It was Saturday, and the day before the Super Bowl, and it was as crowded as you might imagine, but I thought I could get in and out with my short list. I was wrong. The aisles were crammed full of people and carts and the checkout area was packed with no real way for anyone to even break through to get where they were going. I found myself wishing we could all agree on some basic rules of behavior to make this process easier. I propose the following, and since a grocery store is just a microcosm of the bigger world, these rules can really go way beyond the supermarket to the rest of life.
- Travel light. You need one thing in one aisle, so leave your cart behind. You don’t need to bring your baggage everywhere you go. Park it in a convenient place, out of peoples’ way, and get what you need. Then reclaim your baggage and move on.
- Be aware of others. We have all seen that person who parks their cart mid-aisle with no idea that anyone around them also has places to go and things to get. Anticipating when someone will need to turn, or get something off a shelf, and allowing them to do it, is the highest grace of the grocery store. Be mindful of each other. Maybe one day it will be you who needs to get that parmesan cheese (or understanding, or forgiveness) off that high shelf, and someone will let you in to get it. Just like Jesus always said when he was grocery shopping (and at other times probably), “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
- Be polite. It doesn’t help anyone to be grumbling around and cutting in, least of all you. We’re all in the same messy boat. Being nice about it makes everything more pleasant.
- Be kind. Look around… there are a million opportunities to be kind at a grocery store. Compliment someone. Smile. Buy the girl scout cookies or make the donation. Today, there was a woman who dropped a bunch of change while we were waiting to check out and she was having some trouble picking it up. I jumped in to get it, then found out she had recently had hip surgery. I gave her a little encouragement. It’s not rocket science, and I don’t need credit for it. You can make kind connections in weird places like supermarket checkout lines, and you should. It’s a good place to be good for no reason at all.
- Be patient. Some people are just going to move slower than others, and it’s because they can’t help it. Use the time that you are waiting to take a breath and wish them well. Someday you may be old or have trouble moving, and you’ll want someone to do the same for you.
- Remember that kids are watching. I always notice kids noticing good and bad behavior in grocery stores. You can see on their faces that they are registering how to be and act when they are grown up shoppers, and it’s a big responsibility to model well for the next generation. Their parents are often stressed more than the average shopper, and face it, the kids are sometimes the cause, but they see when people are kind and helpful and they remember. Be a good example.
- Take care of your stuff. Okay, so you’re all done and headed to the parking lot…great! Grocery shopping in a crowded supermarket is stressful, and life is busy, but man, that is your cart and you can’t just leave it in the parking lot filled with your old Dunkin Donuts cup or whatever. Clean up your mess, and put it back where it’s supposed to be. Think about the next guy. No one needs to be hit by your stuff or trip over it. Take care of business. You’re a grownup.
- Be grateful and share. Not everyone has the opportunity to fill a cart at a grocery store whenever they need to. Be thankful for what you have and take some of that stuff and give it to someone else.
The grocery store is a place we all need to go, and on days like this, it’s no one’s favorite place, but I feel certain we can make it easier on ourselves and each other. Let’s try.