Lately, I’ve been thinking a bit about beauty. It’s no surprise, really, given the gorgeous spring that we enjoyed here in St. Louis until summer so recently barged in. We had lovely blue skies, so many different colors of flowers and the different greens of leaves and new grass. Even the gray tones of the stormy days were pretty.
It was on one of these gray, stormy spring days that I made my way to Aldi. Now, I know that you’re thinking, “Aldi, again? That’s half of what this girl talks about.” It is true. I do talk about Aldi a lot. I don’t get out much, as y’all may have guessed. So, when I do get out, it’s usually to combine trips for efficiency’s sake. I go to Aldi to get bananas…and to preserve my sanity. So, there you have it.
But, back to the sky that day. It was a beautiful splotchy gray and had been threatening rain for hours. So, I wasn’t surprised when it began raining in earnest. Ever unprepared for the weather, since I was lacking both raincoat and umbrella, I quickly stopped admiring the clouds and hustled into the store.
Aldi is a funny place. Sometimes it is packed with people and sometimes there’s hardly anyone in the store. It was pretty much empty on that day and I made a mental note to always plan my trips to put me there at this particular time. As it happens, I haven’t yet been back to test my theory. It is no surprise that the quest for bananas and sanity doesn’t follow a schedule.
There were only a few other customers that I passed as I breezily zipped down the aisles, grabbing what I needed. An older man I passed was thoughtfully contemplating some cantaloupes and a young mother with her 2 toddler girls was examining some frozen juice. My shopping was quickly done and I unloaded my items on the conveyer belt as the young mother got in line behind me. I guessed that her children were ages 3 and 2 — at the oldest. They quietly waited for her to unload her few items and get her money out. By this point, I had paid for my groceries and had moved over to the sacking area. I congratulated myself for remembering my bags — for once — and turned my thoughts again homeward, thinking of the language cards that needed to be done and the bread that I needed to bake.
I was yanked out of my preoccupation with my afternoon to-do list when I heard someone sniff behind me. You’ve heard this kind of sniff before. It is the kind that is the precursor to crying. I turned around to see what was the matter.
The young mother, the one with the sweet, patient girls, was only just holding back her tears. She put her hand over her heart and tried to collect herself as she said, “Thank you, so much,” with a voice that was about to break. She was talking to a lady who was in line behind her. The young mother wheeled her cart toward the door to the parking lot. It had barely closed when the clerk said to the lady, “Well, that was your good deed for today!” The lady replied, “Well, I could tell that she really wanted to get those girls a treat but that she was short on money.” “It was a good thing to do,” the clerk said. “Everything else she got was healthy. She’s having a hard day, seems like,” said the lady. Then she added, simply, “I’ve been there.”
With this, the lady took her few purchases and made her way to the parking lot. I followed her out.
As I passed the young mother’s car, I noticed that she was again thanking the lady who had bought her girls some treats in the checkout line. The lady stopped to chat with the young mother for a bit more and I started loading my groceries into my car, thinking that I was so glad that there were kind people like that lady on this earth.
A couple of minutes later, I was startled by another noise from the young mother. This time, it was a muffled sob. I turned around, expecting to possibly see her standing there alone, crying into a tissue. But, no, the sob was muffled because she was crying into the shoulder of the lady, who was hugging the young mother. The lady was talking softly to the young mother, telling her that it was okay….telling her not to give up hope.
I finished loading my car and returned my cart to the front of the store. As I retraced my steps back to my car, I noticed the young mother was returning her cart, too. She wasn’t crying anymore. I watched as the lady left the parking lot with a cheery wave and a thumbs up for the young mama, driving her 20 year-old car with a sagging muffler. All I could think to myself was, “Wow. Now, that was beautiful.”
Our God does not go cheap on us when it comes to beauty in this world. From the easily recognizable beauty of a colorful sunset, to beauty that is always there but sometimes goes unrecognized like birds in flight or sparkling dew on the grass on a summer morning, to the mysterious beauty of your amazing circulatory system, to the unknown beauty of flowers on the top of a mountain that no human eye will ever see — we are surrounded by beauty constantly.
And, yet, all of the glorious, lovely things of nature somehow pale in comparison to the beauty of someone acting in such a beautiful way. Maybe it’s because the magnificent mountain doesn’t have a choice when it comes to being beautiful. It doesn’t wake up in the morning and decide whether or not it will be beautiful on a particular day.
I know that this isn’t a profound thought. But, that scene in the parking lot just keeps intruding into my mind. That lady was just a force of nature. She exuded hope and peace and encouragement. She didn’t buy those treats to make herself feel better. She didn’t embrace a stranger while her lunch break minutes ticked away to get in her good deed for the day. It is no small matter to do what she did — to show someone this kind of sympathy. This lady didn’t observe the young mother’s situation and think to herself, “There but for the grace of God go I.” No, instead she took the time to show love and compassion and empathy in a parking lot on a gray, chilly, raining day. In so doing, she showed me some true beauty.
So, like the glorious sunrise or some other beautiful sight that compels you to grab someone to come see it too, because beauty like that should be shared, I tell you this story of the young mother and the lady.
I didn’t want you to miss the beauty.
Happy Monday, y’all!
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