I stand in the checkout lane of Harris Teeter, as the cashier swiftly swipes each item across the lazy red light. She scans the smoked turkey, beep. Baguette, beep. White onion, beep. Ali readies his credit card, and I begin to scan the other checkout lines. There is a man laughing with a woman, who I assume is his wife or fiance. I see a cashier in lane 4 who looks like she’s mentally checked out, eyes glazed over and droopy. I see a man in a black peacoat push his cart in behind Ali. The man looks at me, and then quickly looks down at his cart, or his scarf, or nothing.
I realize this is the first time since we stepped into the grocery store that I took the time to look at people’s faces.
So often nowadays, we walk with our heads down, eyes on the floor, or fingers on our tiny, touch-type keyboards. We ask questions, “Hey, how are ya?” to acquaintances passing by, but we don’t really mean it. We hope for and expect a “Good,” or “Fine,” so that we can continue on with our lives.
And here I am, at a grocery store, realizing that each of these people have lives, have people who are important to them, have things that they are personally thankful for. Each of these people is connected to hundreds of other people, many of whom I don’t know. Then I look to the lottery ticket machine, and I see my friends Cyndi and Vinny, laughing and inserting a dollar, preparing to push a button and try their luck at winning a dollar or a million.
I smile, and catch myself thinking about how blessed I am to know them. They are a part of my life. I don’t know everyone. I don’t ever expect to know everyone. But I am thankful for the people I share my life with, and I hope that maybe, just maybe, someone else in a grocery store somewhere is thinking the same thoughts I am, feeling the gravity of gratitude that I am.
Ali grabs the receipt and both plastic bags. I offer my help, but like a gentleman, he refuses.
We walk together toward Cyndi and Vinny, who have their own plastic bags, a scratch-off lottery ticket, and their own beautiful labyrinthine lives, which are somehow latticed together nicely with ours, Ali’s and mine. And we walk out together, much the same way that many people will today, and tomorrow, and next year, and many years hence.