Dear Woman I offended at the Grocery Store,
I've been debating this post for over two years. It's such a little thing, and you probably don't even remember this encounter, but every now and then, I still hear your voice in my head and my blood boils all over again.
It was early October of 2015 in aisle 6 of the grocery store down the street from my house. You were with your sister or maybe your clone. You had the same color hair and same shape to your face. She was pushing a cart with two small children. One of those behemoth carts that have a car on the end of them.
I was with my thirteen year-old daughter and my mom.
Mom rounded the corner just as one of the children jumped out of the driver's seat of the cart and there was almost a massive collision. Your sister jerked to a stop. Mom caught herself on the end of my cart and the little boy jumped backward as if he knew he was about to be in trouble.
My mom laughed and made some kind of small talk to smooth everything over. I recognized you from somewhere. Maybe I'd seen you in the aisles of this store before. Maybe I taught your child or you taught mine. Maybe you just have one of those faces. But you looked familiar.
As we made eye contact, my daughter leaned over and whispered in my ear, "Can we please just go?"
My exasperated sign and facial expression were in response to her. Not to the actions of your precious little angels or even the fake laugh your sister had just given my mother.
That's why your response still stings.
You narrowed your eyes and said as if you wanted me to hear but weren't adult enough to say it clearly.
"Well, roll your eyes, why don't you?"
Then you nudged your sister and her brood around us, leaving me stunned in the aisle. Until we met on the next aisle and the next as you do in the rhythm of grocery shopping, each time you glared at me. Each time I wanted so badly for you (a complete stranger who was judging me strictly on what she saw in a three second interaction) to know what was really going on.
Maybe you would have been kinder if you'd noticed the bandages on my mom's arms, or the fact she was painfully thin, or even the way she held on the cart or me or my daughter as she shuffled down the aisle.
"Can we please just go?" That's what my daughter said. Not because she was being surly or impatient, but because she was genuinely concerned her grandmother was on the verge of collapsing to the floor.
What you don't know about that moment of perceived slight is that my mom had been released from the hospital hours before and was insisting that she could walk through the store with us, insisting on walking all the way down the aisle instead of staying with me and letting my daughter retrieve what we needed.
What you also don't know is four days before you felt the need to speak so snidely under your breath, I opened my back door to find my mom on the ground, not breathing and totally unresponsive.
She spent a twenty-four hours on a ventilator, three days in ICU, and was finally released with a terminal diagnosis.
When you rounded that corner, we were picking up the few things she would eat, and then we needed to get home—the hospice nurse was on her way.
Five months (almost to the day) after your remark in aisle 6, I lost my mom forever.
I know none of this is your problem. My intention isn't to fish for sympathy or to distribute guilt. I have no idea why you were in the grocery store that day or what your days before that had been like.
But all this time later, your words, your tone, your glowering expression all still linger in my mind.
Not because you are important in my life, but because in that moment as a fellow human, I needed kindness. Not even a smile, just not to be kicked while I was down. Not to be assumed as a rude person and not to be reminded of your disapproval for three more aisles.
As I said in the beginning, I doubt you have even the slightest memory of this event. It was most likely nothing but a blip for you, but I remind you so maybe next time you'll pause. Maybe next time you'll offer the benefit of the doubt before assuming the worst about someone.
Be kinder than necessary for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.