Fantastic Friday: Humanity at the Checkout Line

I had another post planned for this week, but I procrastinated on my research. Good thing because something fantastic happened to me today I thought I’d write about.

My toddler, online known as the CLK (Cute Little Kiddo), had an early morning. Teething woke her, and despite my attempts at comforting/bribing/consoling her with food/cartoons/cuddles, she would not go back to sleep. So I figured: why not hit the supermarket before it gets crowded?

So I packed her into the car, and not half a mile down the road, she was out.

It was one of those deep sleeps in which even being taken from a car seat on a very sunny, very cold, and very windy morning did not wake her. So instead of sitting attentively in the shopping cart and trying to pull things off the shelves, she slept soundly on my shoulder while I shopped.

If you’ve never done it before, I challenge you to go shopping with a snoring twenty-pound toddler slung over your shoulder. If you don’t have a toddler handy, you can pick up a large bag of flour/rice/potatoes instead. Real sleeping toddlers are just as limp, though you may want to add (or imagine) snoring and the occasional tossing and turning. The experience will definitely prove to you that time is, indeed, relative.

After one-handedly navigating a cart through the aisles and picking items as gingerly as possible, I headed for the checkout line. I’d been getting sympathetic glances the entire time, people looking from me to their carts with a look of relief washing over their face that at least this element of their lives, the trip to the grocery store, was unencumbered. At least I could be their foils for the morning.

At such an hour, only two lines were open, and I wasn’t going to attempt a self-checkout with one hand. A woman with a super-loaded cart arrived a second or two before me. She glanced sympathetically at me, looking from the CLK to her own ten-ish-year-old daughter.

“I remember those days,” she said. “Why don’t you go in front of me?”

I thanked her, but I declined. She’d probably finish faster, anyway. I chose the second available checkout—the slightly longer line.

“Okay,” she insisted, “but I’m sending my daughter over there to unload your cart onto the conveyor belt for you.”

I watched in amazement as her daughter unloaded the cart onto the belt and even took the reusable bags up to the cashier for me. It was a small gesture, but it brightened my morning. I was reminded to cherish the sleeping toddler on my shoulder—because I know this stage doesn’t last long. I was encouraged that one day, the CLK would be old enough to help load up groceries with/for me. And I was inspired that one day, when the CLK is old enough, perhaps I’ll be able to show her the value of helping others by lending her services to another mother in need.

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