Goodness at the Grocers

1809 1809_ () 1809 1809 Weekly column
A few days before Christmas I had a to-do list that couldn’t wait. The boys were all home from school and I decided my best option was to load everyone up and hit the mega-mart as early as possible.

We pulled into the parking lot to discover (with glee) a space within a half-mile of the store. The boys climbed out of the Suburban, I pulled Henry from his car seat and we headed inside.

As we entered the store, a middle-age black woman was helping two young ladies load a baby into a grocery cart. The young women wheeled away as the older lady grabbed another cart, which I presumed was for me. I took the cart from her and began to put Henry in the front seat. I wasn’t paying attention to the lady as I buckled Henry, but planned to thank her once I was done.

It was then I heard a deep exhale and looked up to see her grab another cart and spin it quickly. She was muttering something and in that moment I noticed her purse – this woman did not work at the mega-mart, but instead was getting a cart for herself. I had essentially grabbed her cart and taken it for myself.

“Why did you do that, Mom?” asked one of my boys as we stood in horror, watching the woman march off.

“I’m so sorry,” I called after her, “I thought you worked here!”

“We don’t ALL work here,” she snapped over her shoulder and continued on her way.

I felt a major rush of blood into my ears. The shame I felt in my error quickly turned to anger. What was she suggesting? This was an honest mistake – I saw her helping the people before me, couldn’t I naturally make this assumption?

I watched the woman walk away, and my boys stared at me as I debated yelling after her. I wanted to ask her how she could dare accuse me of thinking all black people worked at Wal-Mart. I wanted to run down a list of all my great qualities, kindness and color-blindness among them. I wanted to shout all these things to this angry stranger, and instead I watched as she wheeled her cart out of sight.

“Let’s go,” I said to the boys, and we headed off to conquer our list. I was so upset I could barely think.

A few minutes later, as we headed to the housewares, I spotted the woman. She was a few aisles over and I whipped our cart so fast it almost made Henry’s head spin.

“This way,” I said to the boys, “I do NOT want to see that lady again.”

We continued our shopping, and after a while the strangest thing happened – I absolutely wanted to see that lady again. I realized, after I had calmed down, that I would not leave that store angry at this stranger. I began to pray I would see her, and I started to actually seek her out.

After a few minutes, as we rounded the baking aisle, the woman appeared. I made my move.

“Ma’am,” I said, walking over to her, “I am SO sorry for what happened. I didn’t see your purse and I assumed you worked here. Please forgive my error. I did not mean to be so rude.”

The lady looked at me, took a deep breath, and told me it was fine. She said there was no problem and everything was okay and we went our separate ways. I had corrected my mistake and felt a weight lifted.

A minute later, however, she came back to me.

“You know,” she said, “I didn’t handle that right either. I was angry with my daughter and I took it out on you. I’m sorry.”

I touched her shoulder and forgave her and we smiled and wished each other a merry Christmas. Then she walked away and I stood at our cart blinking back tears.

“Why did you do that mom,” asked the boys and I told them the truth.

“I didn’t want to give that lady an excuse to go through life hating someone she didn’t even know,” I said. I also explained that selfishly, I apologized for my own good – because I didn’t want to keep that anger in my heart and the best way to let it go was to tell her just how sorry I was.

And I explained that sometimes God is so full of goodness and mercy and love that he gives us even more peace and joy than we could ever predict. This encounter that started off so horribly ended up being the perfect way to enter into our Christmas celebrations. 1809″



  1. Wow. Great story. Great example. For your boys and for your readers. Thanks, not just for sharing but for taking the high road in a situation that not many of us would have handled as well.

  2. Very powerful story. Good for you for listening to the promptings of the Holy spirit when your justifiable anger could have won the day.

    – Kelly

  3. I've those moments myself, so upset about a something a stranger said or did that I couldn't think straight, but not wanting to make a scene and risk even more embarassment. What a fine example you were to your boys of humility and forgiveness.

  4. Beautiful example, this gave me chills.

  5. I love the way your boys asked you, in both instances, "Why did you do that mom?" – And I bet that woman went home and shared some of that love and forgiveness with her daughter. Full circle indeed!

  6. Heather Viz says

    How awesome to have such a teachable moment for your kids. I love it when God does that, even if it's humbling on my part. Love you Rach.

  7. What a great thing – in my horrible pride, I always struggle with telling someone I'm sorry – even when I know I'm wrong and need to apologize. What a great example of humility for your boys. I'm going to remember that next time.

  8. LOVE this story Rachel. It's funny how things can be SO misinterpreted in the heat of the moment.

  9. Very encouraging. Thanks for this!

  10. Ecce Quam Bonam says

    Please submit this as a "guest editorial" to the local newspaper (for which you freelance?). It is a story for our times in our city.

    Something like this would be such a welcome alternative to the awfulness that so often shows up there.

    You have an amazing gift, Rach, and it is such a blessing to see it being used with such a deft and loving touch.

  11. Allison Kennedy says

    Great story, and good for you, and good for the woman. Sometimes in that situation I think, "Well, I probably won't ever see her again."
    But I guess that isn't the point!
    Have a great weekend.
    Chimene wrote to me on Facebook!

  12. Jen Raiche says

    What a loving thing to do! God bless you!

  13. I'll try to remember this the next time I'm in a situation like that.