Updated on September 21, 2017
To the lady who gave me peanut butter and grace at Walmart
Peanut butter. I just needed peanut butter. And a few more hours in the day, but Walmart was all out of those. So I settle for peanut butter. Feeling overwhelmed by the never ending race against the ticking clock, I wheel around the corner of the aisle and nearly take her down with my cart.
“Which type of jelly do you think my granddaughter likes best?” she asks, nonplussed by the fact that my cart is screeching to a halt on two wheels.
What? I try not to actually look at her because, really? I. AM. IN. A. HURRY. And I just need peanut butter.
“I can’t remember if I gave her grape or strawberry last time?” she continues as I try to duck around her and grab the peanut butter. But I can’t get to it without stepping in front of her, and the well- mannered southern girl in me won’t allow that. Even though, I need to go. NOW.
“Ummm… well, my boys like grape best,” I offer up smiling, still trying to reach around her. But she doesn’t move, and I am forced to make eye contact. A halo of white hair encompasses her face and two of the brightest blue eyes I have ever seen dance back at me as her face lights up with a smile.
“Boys, huh? How many do you have?” she is clearly unaware that I just need to get some peanut butter.
“Three,” I mutter trying to look away. But she holds my gaze with those amazing eyes, and I notice that her smile makes her appear years younger than her stooped body tells her to be.
“Three boys. What a delight! You are doing a most excellent job, mom,” she says, “a job that only you can do. What a gift! And you have the most beautiful smile.” She follows my shifting eyes, reaches back and hands me the peanut butter. “Yes, I think you are right. She does like grape. How nice of you to help an old lady like me when you are in such a hurry.”
She winks at me and then slowly continues to push her cart down the aisle.
I stand and stare at the jar in my hand. The one thing I thought I needed. The one thing I was certain could set this day back in its proper order. And yet.
“Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word fitly spoken” (Proverbs 25:11).
Her words wash right over me and momentarily settle the overwhelming panic that sits right below the surface of my heart. She didn’t know that the day had bullied me into believing that I couldn’t do it all. She didn’t know how I had forgotten that this life is a gift and was treating it more like a chore.
She didn’t know that her little words would echo in my head for the rest of the day; that I would hear them as I drove carpool, helped with book reports, settled arguments and tucked boys into bed. She didn’t know how they would slow me down and simply make me smile. Nope. She didn’t know any of this.
She was just trying to pick the right jelly.
But I think she does know a little something that I am quick to forget. I think she knows that our words carry power; that our smiles and our eyes and the way God created us to be in communion with each other? They are gifts. And we are meant to use them well. We are meant to truly see others and to cheer them on as we travel the aisles of this life together. Even the ones who don’t really want to listen. Yeah. I forget how much this matters.
And then I go racing into the day looking for peanut butter and get handed a huge helping of grace. So, to the sweet lady who bought grape jelly at the Walmart yesterday morning; I want to be you when I grow up.