Kindness on Aisle Five

The stranger I met less than an hour ago who treated me like a life-long friend. And his name just happened to mean, “Friend of All!”

Vegan foodie that I am, the grocery store is easily among my happiest places. I always inhale deeply as I pass through the floral galleries. I’m enamored with the fresh and vibrant produce. I find the seasoning section to be scintillating – and of course, I am thrilled to be in my wee little vegan sections. Nevertheless, tonight was originally, a bit wearisome.

I was feeling terrible, but pushing past my discomfort (as most moms do). The basket was so heavy tonight, it felt like a strain to lug it, whether in front or behind me – I tried both. My mind was a bit all over the place, as I worried about forgetting something (of course, I didn’t bring a list); yet, I didn’t want to get too much. More to carry. More to put away – and because I was so scatter-brained, I kept forgetting items that were in sections far away, but I was too exhausted to take the basket everywhere with me.

I decided, it was time to check out, and there was only one cashier with a line open. I saw two full baskets ahead, and one that appeared unaccompanied – but, there was a young man not far away. I approached him gently and said, “Is this your basket?” In hindsight, I think I should have started with, “Hello. How are you?” which is my usual. Again, scatter-brained.

He seemed unbothered, and said, “Yes.” Then, as if we’d been friends forever, I said, “This is my basket. I’ll be right back – I just need to get one thing!” There was taco seasoning calling my name, and I couldn’t stand the idea of toting that heavy basket with me.

“Sure,” he said. As luck would have it, I took a few steps, and the line was already moving. I whipped around rather quickly to move my basket – but I didn’t have to. He was pushing mine and his, too. “Wow!” I said. “That was nice!” I continued hurriedly along my little trek, eager to get back as soon as possible. I didn’t want the line to move too quickly and others find me absent.

As I was coming back from my quick trip, my heart sank a bit.

I saw the young man getting out of the line…

Why is he doing that?” I wondered. “Did something happen?”

I looked up, and I saw the light had been turned out where the cashier once stood.

“Oh no! Now, I’m going to have to do this whole basket in self-check out. #ugh!”

But before the dismay had time to settle, I noticed – he was going to another line.

He was taking his basket.

And he was also taking my basket.

“Wait, what?”

As I got closer, I realized the entire line had moved; but, this was several aisles over. Quite honestly, his first kind gesture would have sufficed. I was glad that he nudged my basket where we were. That he took my heavy basket and his – simultaneously – several lines over to ensure that I didn’t lose my space was a seemingly small act that I found to be most unbelievably generous!

I felt so terrible. I wanted so badly to go home. My son had been waiting for me in the car, and I couldn’t move fast enough. Quite frankly, this warmed my heart. And of course – I wanted to write about it! So feeling courageous (and reluctant at the same time – again, looked a mess!), I said, “Can I take your picture?”

I did this at the risk of him thinking I was a strange and unusual woman. I promptly told him I wanted to blog tonight about how kind it was of him to move my basket along – twice – in my absence. Thankfully, he believed me!

He posed politely, and though it wasn’t my best shot (glare in the back that I saw later), the essence was achieved. I wanted people to see this young man whom I’d never met that so considerately thought enough of me to bear my burden with his own tasks (and he was helping three other people with his cart as well)!

I asked his name, and he said it was, “Arvin.” I expressed my appreciation for his kindness, and then he went on to tell me that his mother chose his name. It meant, “Friend of All.” I was enchanted at the irony of it all. Thereafter, we had the most pleasant conversation as the cashier rang up my items. We spanned global compassion, all things vegan, my 20+ year marriage and his upcoming wedding all within a span of moments.

I showed him my blog on his phone after he generously let me type it in so he’d know that I wasn’t fabricating the whole thing. And as I looked quite – uh, different (not feeling well, remember – smile) I explained that I was a speaker and a professor and kept saying, “I look better on my website.” His response only warmed my heart more.

“I don’t judge people from the outside. It’s like a book in the bookstore,” he said. He went on to discuss the shiny, new books which we so often gravitate to vs. the one you may unexpectedly find in a ‘thrift store.” He noted, “The cover may be torn. The pages may be worn; but, that’s an indicator that book has been through many hands; touched many people…”

Now at this point, I’m thinking, how fortunate I was to run into Mr. Arvin who shared such great insight and authentic kindness in such a small amount of time! Though we’d never met before, we were of kindred spirits. We agreed that kindness everywhere can make a difference anywhere. It is among the least of things we can do with truly monumental impact.

I am hoping that he will have the opportunity to read this post sooner than later; but, if he doesn’t, I will forever appreciate his act of kindness on Aisle 5.

Thank You, Mr. Arvin – and best wishes to you and your new bride.

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