The cups in the parking lot set me off.
I’m in a bad mood to begin with. Walking through the parking lot toward the local all-mart store (my least favorite place to be) I watch a woman roll down the window of her tall, red truck, toss three half-full cups of soda onto the empty parking stall next to her, and drive away. Something in me pops. I want to chase her down and throw the cups into the back of her truck. Or into her lap.
Anger sets in.
Nearing the store, I watch a guy in a huge SUV roll into the only available handicap stall, hang a handicap sign in the window, and hop out. He looks mobile to me. How dare he take that stall from someone who needs it? I think as I march past.
At the door of the store, a young scout in a merit badge-laden uniform offers me a little sample cup of popcorn his troop is selling in front of the store. No, kid, I don’t want your popcorn. Nine dollars a bag? For popcorn? Are you kidding me?
I enter the store in a black mood. Everything and everyone are wrong. I hate this store. I hate how big it is, how loud and garish and smug it is. We all come here to spend our hard-earned money buying the things we need, plus the things this place convinces us we need. I pray I never need help here because finding an employee here is impossible. I grumble all of this to myself.
Filling my cart is annoying. I have my shopping list, but I see more things I want to get, but think I shouldn’t. I do anyway, annoyed that I do. And anxious if I don’t.
I see a mom scolding her crying child. Take him outside, lady, for the sake of everyone within earshot.
Two teens giggle as they rearrange shoes so they’re mismatched. Don’t you two have something better to do with your time, like harass old people on the street? Get a life.
A kid rides past me on a store scooter. Seriously? You took that from someone who really needs it.
Then the guy who parked in the handicap stall walks around the corner and holds out a package to the kid. “Is this the kind you wanted?”
“Yeah, thanks Dad,” the boy replies. I step back and watch them. At one point the boy tries to reach up to get something off the shelf, but can’t. His dad grabs him, holds him up, and helps him decide what to choose. They talk, they laugh, they clearly love each other. The dad’s hand rests on his son’s shoulder. The boy smiles.
Tears in my eyes. That stone in my heart melts like ice in boiling water. My eyes see things I didn’t see before. Children with their moms who seem excited to be here. Teens shopping responsibly. The brave young moms pushing carts full of kids and groceries trying to figure out how to make ends meet. The shy man with a bouquet he just bought leaving the store with hope in his eyes. The self check-out clerk patiently helping an older woman figure out how to scan a watermelon. The woman at the checkout line who sees my few purchases and motions me ahead of her and her full cart.
I finish bagging my groceries and head for the door. It’s extravagant, but I stop by the popcorn stand and spend $20 on a bag of popcorn. “Keep the change,” I tell the young scout. Who says money can’t buy happiness. Twenty bucks just made us both very happy.
Heading out the door, I stop to watch the boy in the scooter as he pulls up next to the big SUV. His dad bends down, scoops him up in his arms, slides him into the passenger seat, and helps him with his seat belt.
As I walk to my car, I pass the three soda cups still lying on the ground. Emptying one of my grocery bags, I scoop up the mess and haul it to a trash can. Strangely, I don’t mind.
I have so much to learn. But I get today’s lesson: We find what we’re looking for.