Posted on Wednesday, Sep 18, 2019 by Monika Kelly

Old man sitting on park bench

I’m either super tired, have amnesia or have been drinking way too much coffee, but I can’t remember the last time I significantly encouraged a total stranger.

Except for maybe today.

I was at my favorite discount/bag-your-own food grocery store—a place where you can get spun honey at half the price and ridiculous deals on oatmeal and Fuji apples.

At the end of the conveyor belt, an elderly man was slowly putting away his groceries into his earth-friendly reusable bags. I wasn’t in a hurry, so I parked my shopping cart in the aisle and conjured up stories about this man in my mind.

Maybe he was on a fixed income and needed to shop here. Maybe he was a widower, or his wife was at home and not feeling well. Maybe he lived far away from his children.

He interrupted my thoughts to look up and say, “Am I in your way?”

“Take your time,” I said, in my gentlest, inside-voice.

He slowly finished up his bagging, with a special green bag for his apple pie and crumb-topped peach cobbler and turned his cart around to leave.

I looked at him again and smiled and said, “Have a nice day.”

He looked me in the eyes, smiled back and said, "you too."

That was all. Nothing spectacular but as he walked away, I silently hoped that I had somehow made his day—that he walked away knowing that he wasn’t a burden or a hassle, but still a very important part of the community.

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